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The SOLVIVA Pool House/Lab

After my Father died, in 2007, at age 96, I was stunned to find that I had inherited some money. I decided to fulfill a dream I had held dear for long: to build a small house with the best Solviva designs I could imagine - for the purpose of recording and documenting it’s performance.

I installed 10 strategically placed thermometers, and kept extensive temperature records, including the pool. Also humidity readings (60-70%, very comfortable).

I also tested for nitrogen reduction performed by the BioCarbon Greenfilter (96-99%!).

Here's the Solviva Pool House/Lab in deep snow and 7º below zero Fahrenheit.

Brilliant sun is streaming in through the windows, warming up the the air and the dark red smooth varnished concrete floor.

By 9 a.m. the solar heat has caused the snow to slide off the roof, and the temperature of the air inside the space between the black metal roof and the clear glazing above it, heats up with amazing speed to more than 120ºF.

And soon, the sun causes the snow to slide off the single small PV panel (200w) in the center of the row of panels located along the roof ridge - and suddenly the solar energy makes the PV panel produce electricity - which immediately makes 8 fans run (two 12" DC-fans, plus 6 small fans) - which move that 120ºF solar-heated air at 600 cubic feet per minute from the solar roof, down through ducts, and through the layer of clean 1-2" rocks below the concrete floor.

I measured the air speed and temperatures many times, because I couldn't believe that it could be that effective - but there it was, again and again. It's a wonderful system - with direct connection between the PV panel and fans - no batteries! no inverters! No fuses or switches!

This mass of stones and concrete absorbs the heat, and by the time the air completes the circle and returns to the bottom of the roof, it has cooled down. And as it flows back up through the solar roof, it gets reheated to more than 120 degrees in just a few seconds (I kid you not!). It's one continuous circle as long as the sun is shining. A cloud comes, the heating stops and the fans stop. Sun comes back, heating and fans resume.

These fans happened to provide the perfect air speed - if the air flow was slower, it would overheat, which would result in more heatloss through the glazing - and if the air flow was faster, it would reduce the heat gain.

Without airflow, the temperature would rise to 170 degrees in just a minute. I know this, because I made a simple solar hotbox for killing weed seeds in soil and compost: 170ºF!

This shows the copper pipe zigzagging up the solar roof, all of it painted black with high-heat paint.

Solar water-heating calculations: The pool holds 2500 gallons of water x 8 pounds/gallon = 20,000 pounds of water x 1 degree gain = 20,000 btu /3.41 = 5865 watts = 5.8 kW, which is even more power than the 5.5 kW water heater that came with the pool. Astounding success!

Here's the very funky but very effective wood heating system. Just like the solar water heating system, this system also raises the temperature of the 2500 gallons of water in the pool as effectively as the 5500-watt water heater that came with the pool. The picture on the right shows the control valves that direct the poolwater to be heated by the sun or by this wood stove.

Solar water-heating calculations: The pool holds 2500 gallons of water x 8 pounds/gallon = 20,000 pounds of water x 1 degree gain = 20,000 btu /3.41 = 5865 watts = 5.8 kW, which is even more power than the 5.5 kW water heater that came with the pool.

Soon, the room temperature is up to 70 degrees, and the pool temperature is 83 degrees, down from 84 degrees the day before. This retractable cover was so effective that the pool water lost only 1 degree in 24 hours:

Having the chickens in the Solviva Winter Garden was a spectacular success! - The CO2!  The Earthlung filter system! The heat from the chickens, and their easy deep bedding system! The amazing quality/quantity of compost, the eggs and meat! The thrill of having created such a happy home for them: safe and secure, clean air, fantastic fascinating clean bedding, fresh greens every day, constant access to pellets and clean water. Therefore very happy, healthy and calm chickens - and therefore optimum egg production.  (See much more details in my first book, SOLVIVA)

However, the chicken set-up for the PoolHouse did not work out nearly as well.

- 12 chickens was not enough to make enough difference for heating, whereas 100 chickens in the Solviva Winter Garden heated their space to 70 degrees F, which was 25 degrees warmer than the temperature in the adjacent plant area. And of course, without the chickens, this greenhouse would likely have gone below freezing under those below-zero blizzard conditions.

- The space was too narrow, which made it harder to manage the deep bedding.

- The roosting platform was great, and easy to fold up for cleaning and egg-collecting access, but they soon found a couple of higher spots, and everyone wanted the highest spot. Results: tension and squabbles. Lesson learned: make sure that all roosting spots are on the same level, such as the design below, to go along the north wall of a large greenhouse.

- Also, extremely fine powdery dust penetrated into the pool area and upstairs, and it was impossible to find and seal every tiny hole or crack. This was never a problem in the big greenhouse. Probably because the little muffin fan for the EarthLung filter was strong enough to maintain negative air-pressure in the chicken room, and to suck the dust into the sand+leafmold EarthLung filter ecosystem, where it was quickly consumed and integrated by the mini, micro and nano critters living within it.

- The Rats were outrageously destructive - a tiny openings was all it took (we neglected to fill in the little gap around the water pipe going through the foundation wall! Arghh!!), and they kept breaking our fixes. They destroyed the EarthLung filter within a couple of days of getting in, making it useless for filtering out the dust. They ate the chicken feed and the eggs, and made tunnels in the insulation. Rats must be prevented from the start, 100%. Period! It can be done and it must be done.

-  The screen porch for the chickens, along the north wall, was great - but, again, it was invaded by rats - so this too needs to be ratproof.

- The large yard for the chickens was also great, with plenty of shade trees and bushes, but although I tried and tried, I never managed to provide enough protection from racoons and hawks. In spite of wires crisscrossing over their yard, hung with reflective mylar tape flicking in the slightest breeze, and a fierce-looking plastic barn owl perched on a fence post, the massacres were relentless.

It's obvious that, in order to have the chickens be safe and feel safe, and for us to be able to be food secure, their outdoor space, too, must be 100% secure.

I am currently designing such a Chicken Haven.

It will be an essential part of my conversion to achieve 100% solar energy self-suffiency and independence, as well as food security. Stay tuned.

About the Heating System

- The rock storage under the concrete floor was too large, roughly 12'x16' x 24"deep = 350 cubic feet. This meant that the 120 degree heat ducted down from the solar roof got too diluted among too many rocks, so this rock heat storage system never got up to 70 degrees as I had imagined. In the rush to complete the building before winter cold descended, I neglected to put in at least 4 holes through the slab floor and part way into the rock bed, for the purpose of taking temperature readings.

If I could do it again:

- I would of course still have the insulated rat-slab on the bottom, but I would be sure to plug up even the tiniest little open where critters could enter. And I would do the same for any other place they might enter, like around the ventilation system along the roof ridge. Squirrels broke in again and again, managing to tear apart whatever repairs we did, and they tore up the insulation!

- I would still want to move that immense amount of solar heat into storage under the slab floor. I love a smooth (but not too slippery!) warm dark red varnished concrete floor. I like the idea of just using solar-heated air to heat the floor, rather than the typical water-filled radiant floor heating, with the inherent risk of leaks.

But, instead of 24" deep rock bed, I am now thinking of an 8" deep air space between the insulated bottom rat slab and the concrete slab floor above it, supported by strategically placed heat-absorbing hollow concrete blocks (one per 2 square feet?), through which the solar-heated air would flow and transmit its 120 degree solar heat into those concrete blocks and the floor slab above - and then, cooled down, the air returns to the roof for another 3-second reheat through the solar furnace.

?? Ideally, what temperature should the circulating air be at the point that it leaves the heat storage area and returns to the solar roof furnace?

?? How many BTUs of solar heat can be absorbed on a sunny day, and then be slowly released during the night?

I have not actually built this heat storage design modification, but after many years of experience, I am pretty good at imagining what the result would be. And if it still doesn't work as well as I hoped, well, then evolution will just need to continue, because - the point is, we have this immense amount of heat energy streaming in from our sun, roughly 3x more power than the part of the spectrum that can make electricity with PV panels.

This whole heat energy sector is pretty much ignored by designers, architects, engineers, builders - they seem to lack the knowledge of how to harvest that solar heat without causing overheating and glare. It's a horrific waste of an immense energy resource, which we have to learn how to harvest and store it if we want a chance to survive.

Solar power amounts to roughly 1000 watts/sq.meter, which is roughly 100 watts/sq.ft.

Multiplied by 5 hours sunlight per day = 500 watthours/sq.ft. on a sunny day. That's 0.5 kWh per square foot per sunny day.

In my location, the island of Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, we get 50% of possible sunshine, which is roughly 170 sunny days annually = 85 kWh per sq.ft/year.

Thus, incoming solar energy in my location is roughly 85 kWh/sq.ft./year. Out of that immense amount of solar energy, roughly 20% can make electricity (17 kWh/sq.ft./year), and another 40% (equiv. to 34 kWh/sq.ft./year) is thermal energy that can heat both air and water.

It seems that such a solar panel could harvest 60% of incoming solar energy, which means we could potentially harvest the energy equivalent of 51 kWh/sq.ft./year. This is a great deal more than just the 17% that can be turn into electricity.

Here's an illustration that explains this:

Thus, a 300 sq.ft. PV+Thermal (PV+T) solar roof could produce roughly 5100 kWh of electricity annually, plus the equivalent of perhaps 10,200 kWh in the form of heat for water and air. That's a total of 15,300 kWh/year.

If these calculations are even close to correct, then a PV+T solar roof would be a game changer.

I hope this will inspire engineering minds of any age or background to develop such a PVT solar design. I've been developing such a design, and when it's ready enough, I will publish it here.

The race is on to make the most effective, reliable and affordable Triple-Combo PV+water + air solar panels.

Our work now is to evolve the best ways to harvest and store the immense amounts thermal energy that is delivered to us from our sun.

Vast amounts of money, time, energy are being spent on evolving the best PV panels and batteries, but solar water heating seems to have stagnated, and I see very little about solar PV+hot water, and hardly anything about solar PV+water+air.

Solar thermal is being ignored - I would say it is even being actively avoided, as all efforts go to minimize solar heat, with tinted glass, big overhangs, and minimal windows facing south.

It's a matter of using the most reliable and affordable methods for harvesting and storing the 100% reliable energy that comes streaming in from 95 million miles away, delivered straight to our doorstep, for free. All we need to have is the equipment to receive it and store.

A pump moves water from the pool up to the copper pipes winding zigzag up the roof,

and when the water gets to the top of the roof, it is very hot (130 degrees!), and then it returns to the pool. This solar-heated, solar-powered water heating system raised the temperature of the pool as effectively as the 5500-watt electric water heater that came with this Endless pool.

When the sun shines, the air in the roof gets hot, the water in the pipes gets hot -

- fans moves 130-degree air down to storage - pump moves 130 degree water to the pool.

Clouds come, both functions stop. Dampers prevent backdraft.

(No batteries or inverters are required - therefore this system is more reliable and less costly!)

- MISTAKE re this solar water-heating system: Installing the zigzag copper pipe was difficult. I did not know that copper coil pipe can bend only one way, and that therefor everyother bend had to be done with 2 couplings - on the 45 degree steep roof - with October cold coming on - and my angel helper rushing to complete the PoolHouse before his scheduled return to Brazil.

When the roof was done, we realized that some of the funky bends in the zigzag pipes tended to retain air bubbles, which built up pressure and then released it into the pool in bursts of extremely hot water. Clearly, this was not going to be one of my successful designs!

However, in spite of that inefficiencies, the fact is that it did raise the temperature of the 2500 gallons of water in the pool by 0.5-1 degree F/hour - which is even more than the 5500-watt water-heater that came with this Endless Pool: 0.5-0.7 degree F/hour. That would mean that this solar water-heating system is equivalent to roughly 6000 watts/hour, which is called a 6 kW system.

It was at a very difficult time that kinda took the wind outta my sails. Loosing my angel-builder + the problem with the solar water-heating system + the hawks and racoons killing off the chickens + rats finding a gap in a plumbing hole we hadn't yet plugged, and squirrels breaking into the roof-ridge vent system, and all proving pretty much unevictable, all of them destroying the insulation and various air and water systems + the 12 chickens not really adding to the heating like I had hoped ... not even close to the spectacular success with the 100 chickens in the Solviva greenhouse!

In spite of these shortcomings, this little Solviva Poolhouse/Lab confirmed some concepts that I had already proved way back in 1981, like the solar roof design on my Solviva home.

- And the composting toilet, odor-free without any fan!

- And the Composting flushtoilet and woodchip greenfilter system!

My mind is constantly evolving better ways, and I now have a much better design, with the water pipes running straight from a supply pipe along the bottom of the roof, up to a collection pipe at the top of the roof, circulating through a pre-heating water tank.

It's a wonderful challenge: harvesting ever-higher percentage of the energy provided by our sun. Which, again, is roughly 1 kilowatt per square meter, which is roughly 100 watts per square foot.

While talking with a kindred-spirit friend we realized we are really talking about returning to Eden - yes, the Garden of Eden.

What, then, was the Garden of Eden? I envision it as a very lovely and easy place to live - living in the exquisite beauty and never-ending abundance of perfect Life as evolved on this lucky planet Earth, yes, the Garden of Eden. We all have images in our minds, including a sample of early man and woman in every picture. And then came the snake, offering the temptation of achieving knowledge and self-awerness, and that was the beginning of shame, worry and fear. And that was the beginning of the End, because Man turned into a creature that has wrought immense destruction on this lovely planet, and brought their owns species to the brink of extinction.

Compared to nowadays, I believe that back then, Life was easier for most people than it is today, with continuous bounty of delicious nutritious fresh foods to gather and to hunt. Just imagine all the various ecosystems with their unending abundance of fruits and roots and leaves and eggs to forage, and plenty of animals to hunt for high quality protein. And when Man learned to make and control fire, it became even easier, because they could smoke and preserve food later use.

We are now ready to re-enter the Garden of Eden, because we are learning to live in ways that cause no harm, and that is the key condition we must comply with if we want to continue to live on this Paradise Planet.

This design shows how even standard fossil-fueled greenhouses

can be transformed to be 100% solar energy self-sufficient.

Starting from the right, you see the silo for the chicken feed and the entry way to the chicken barn. The first chicken room is small, for the day-old chicks. After a week, they are let into the next larger chamber, each with it's own grassy yard with rotational grazing.

After 9 weeks, they have advanced to the last area, to the left, where they enjoy a last week of great luxury, with music and TV (why not?). At the end of that 9th week, they are picked up one by one, and it takes but a few seconds to soothe each chicken into a state utter relaxation, peace and calm. And then the head is cut off, and the chicken dies without any fear or pain. I know this is possible because that's how I did it, only once, but enough to prove that it can be done.

And if we give the animals a chance to live wonderful lives, and then kill the animals without any fear or pain, then, and only then, can we eat meat with a clean conscience. And only then can we derive the tremendous benefits of their manure compost, their bones, feathers, hides, fleeces, and nutritious meat.

Imagine if all chickens, ducks, geese, cows, sheep, pigs etc had a chance to live wonderful lives and then are killed without fear or pain.

I love all these sweet, fun-loving, intelligent animals, and, to me, it seems a lot better to enable them to live wonderful lives, and then enable them to die without fear or pain (as opposed to dying painfully by disease or old age), than not giving them a chance to live at all.

I feel this is a basic flaw with living the vegetarian or vegan way: it denies millions (or billions) of domestic animals the chance to ever live at all. I am not condemning people who refuse to eat meat, and I don't accept being condemned by them for eating meat. But I do disapprove of those who have no compassion for how animals are being treated today. This is a very big conversation that deserves to be openly explored.

Because I documented it all, I can dare to declare that:

We now have the technologies, resources and know-how to be able to transform the way we live, and thereby possibly have a chance to avert the worst of what is forecast."

What makes me so sure that we really can live in the ways I describe?

Here is why:

The Solviva Poolhouse/Lab + the Solviva Home + the Solviva Winter Garden greenhouse,

have proven the following:

1. A comprehensive solar roof systems can provide all the heat and hot water required,

including a swimming pool.

2. An indoor garden can be fully integrated with your home, without causing overheating

or mold. With an old deep bath tub and shower in the middle of it (Heaven on Earth!).

The plants and soil make delicious clean air, and the garden can produce all needed

veggies, salads, herbs and flowers, as well as eggs, meat, heat and compost from the

lucky hens who live in luxury in the insulated attached ChickenWing.

3. A woodstove can yield free hot water by retrofitting a simple circulating water system.

4. All wastewater can be purified by draining through natural ecosystem filters consisting

of wood chips, plants, earthworms and myriads of mini, micro and nano critters, which

thereby reduce nitrogen pollution by 75-99% compared with the septic systems required

by State regulations. And this can be done in ways that cost 50-90% less than the ones

the State requires!

(But these systems are not allowed by the State DEP - what do you think we should do about that?)

5. An all-electric Nissan LEAF can reduce cost of driving by 50%, and even more with

PV to charge the batteries, which also reduces CO2 by 100%.

This is not something that I created, but it sure is something that I now know about:

3 Nissan LEAFs, 100% perfect for 10 years, zero servicing, maintenance or repairs.

A 2-car garage with a 25 x 12' roof can hold 14 PV panels @ 400-watt, which can

produce 5600 kWh annually, enough power for a Leaf 19,600 miles. Enough for 2

Nissan LEAFs, each driving 9300 miles annually!

To me, this is still really hard to believe, even though I know it from my own personal,

direct experience, week after week, year after year, with perfect predictability and

reliability. It gives me hope and pure joy.


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