Archive for the ‘Remodel How-to’s’ Category

OK I admit it…I’m a bit of a Science Geek. When we first started to plan the cabin we knew we would be off grid, not a surprise really since the nearest utility power is about a mile away. So with an Off Grid system you have a number of options. To keep costs down the #1 rule is to be efficient. The less energy you use, the less energy you need to make. Pretty simple really, since large solar panels can run hundreds of dollar each and then the batteries you need to store that energy, hundreds more.  The least amount you can get away with will keep the cost down.  Our cabin will have a few basics, lights and a few “toys”.   For lighting we chose LED’s.  By far the best in power usage and longevity. To keep things even simpler I decided to stay with the native 12 V DC that the Solar panels produce for the lights.  The “toys” are run via a 1000 Watt modified sine wave inverter.  For music we are using an Ipod, hooked up to a set of computer speakers that are being run off the 12 Volt system.

I looked at some light systems for RV’s and Marine applications but these were mostly incandescent.   A few CFL options were out there but at a price premium.  Style also came into play,  most of the RV lights were darn right ugly,  the cool marine ones were outrageously expensive, $150 to $300 per fixture!

Here is a special marine light that lists for $275. 


I found some manufacturers that made LED’s in a number of voltages, from 12 to 240. I also found a handful of LED GU10 bulbs but all 120 volt. I finally found a supplier who would make some LED’s in 12 volts at a decent price. These had the standard screw base. The lights we wanted to use had a GU10 socket for the normal 50 watt Halogen bulb. I replaced the internal fixture with a ceramic screw fixture.  The 3″ mini can lights run about $16 at Home Depot, 3 bucks for the screw fixture, and less than 10 for the custom 12 volt LED bulbs.  These lights use about 1 watt compared to the 50 for the halogen, they also have a life span of 60,000 hours. The light output is a bit less than the halogen, but this can be compensated by just a couple more fixtures.  I purchased a dozen of these lights, modified them, and have installed 6 of them so far in the cabin.   I since have gone 1 step further,  I found another manufacture who could make the 12 volt LED’ s in the GU10 base…this opened up the lighting options tremendously. Now with just a simple bulb swap all kind of lights could be converted to ultra-efficient 12 volt LED’s. The perfect option for new construction.

The first pic here shows a basic GU10 track light, that costs about $15, add a special bulb and you now have something that can compete with the special marine lights the I found for $250+. The bulbs pictured below the light are from left to right. A 38 bulb LED with Gu10 base 1.8 watts, a single LED high output Spot GU10 base 1 watt. A 20 bulb LED, std screw base 1 watt.

This second picture shows one of the mini can lights that I modified with the 20 bulb screw LED.

I ordered a mixed case of these new GU10 based 12 volt bulbs, I will use the rest of the 6 lights, I already modified, and plan to use 3 of the same mini cans with the new gu10’s.  I wish I had found the second manufacturer before I spent the extra $40 or so for the ceramic screw adapters.

If you are interested in setting up you own Ultra efficient lighting using my 12 volt Gu10, I got a handful…$14 plus shiping, 38 Bulb or the High output spot.  Just drop me a note

Here is a night time shot of the cabin before we got snowed on at thanksgiving.  It is about a 30 second exposure, the lights inside are:  Kerosene lamps on the left, LED’s on the right.

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I have been installing flooring for some time, I work as a remodel carpenter, and a lot of hype has been thrown at Bamboo as a great green product. Yes, it is green, botanically it is a grass, and grows quickly. Which is the main reason people consider it green. If you think about how its made, where its made, and its long term benefits…it actually becomes less green.

  1. Bamboo being “grass” does not lend itself to “planks or boards” and thus has to be comprised of little pieces of bamboo glued together. The manufacture of this glue and its use, tend not to be green. The “high density” bamboo is even worse in this area, as it contains more glue. Most of the glues used in plywood as an example are based on the urea formaldehyde model and are far from green. Depending on the manufacture, some flooring may be “greener” based of the type of glue used.
  2. Location of production…Since bamboo does not grow in the US in commercial quantities chances are high that your product is coming from china…which has its own social implications. The amount of embodied energy to produce the product in a country, with far more relaxed environmental laws by the way, and the shipping and transportation cost will increase its overall carbon footprint.
  3. Long term benefits…all of the bamboo I have ever seen or installed has been pre-finished…and I have yet to see or hear about any one “refinishing” bamboo. I have seen Oak and other floors be refinished 4-5 times…with install lives of nearly 100 years and sometimes longer. What happens when the bamboo looks like crap after 10 years…do you rip it out and install more? Not a green practice in my book.

If you want wood, there are many choices available many produced locally from sustainable US based sources. The durability will depend on the species.

Cork again is not grown in the US, and most likely will be transported half way around the planet. Its durability is far less robust than bamboo and regular wood floors and is quite susceptible to moisture and can delaminate due to its “engineered” layer structure.

If you want durable, stone or tile is the best route to go. Not only that, it will contribute to increased thermal mass and NOT provide an “insulative barrier” to the source of the heat down below. Radiant systems work best when installed in the slab, 4″ concrete on grade (insulated below), or for second stories a light weight “gyp-crete” type of mix.

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