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DayCreek Journal
March 27, 2000

Watt A Design

Before any of the walls go up and even before the slab is poured, the utility designs must be completed. Over the last week, I've been tackling the electrical diagrams for the house. I would love to tell you that our house is totally self-sufficient, but it is not. Solar power would help reduce our grid dependency, but it's not a total solution here in the Midwest. Wind is an option if you've got a nice open stretch of land. In our case, the best place for wind is up on top of the bluff, but it's a long haul from the house and there's no access other than climbing up the bluff for installation and maintenance. No matter what, we would still need another source of power for days when there is little wind and little sun. I couldn't see spending $15k to $20k on systems that would not meet our needs, so our only other option is to hook up to the grid.

Our thought process is to spend money on energy efficient appliances and lighting rather than on RE systems that will give us minimal return on investment. This is not to say that I won't attempt RE power in the future. Minnesota law does provide for net metering (allowing homeowners to sell power back to the utility company) and someday I hope to take advantage of that.

The house will be wired using electrical wiring guidelines for residential homes. This means that each circuit will allow for incandescent lighting and power consumptive appliances even though we plan on using compact fluorescent lighting and low wattage appliances. In doing so, all of the electrical circuits will be well within the load limitations.

Current plans are to use conduit throughout the house. This is overkill, but especially when running electrical cables through cordwood walls, I feel it's important to future proof the design. Trying to replace wire once a cordwood wall is up requires a sledge hammer. I may change my mind and use NM cable through interior walls, but any circuit that runs through a cordwood wall will use conduit. And always, check out what is code for your area first. Our county will allow NM cable, but conduit will be used.

Click on the image above to see a larger view.

Click on the image above to see a larger view.

Here are the circuit diagrams for both the first and second floor. As you can see the first floor has got a lot more going on than the second floor. All of the utilities and major appliances are located on the first floor, while the second floor is an office area and guest bedroom. (I ended up using Macromedia's Fireworks to help draw in all of the icons over a grayed out floor layout. By color coding everything, I was able to easily distinguish between the circuits and verify there are no overloaded circuits.)

If the weather holds up, I might go window shopping next... Until next time, happy cordwooding.