Great comment! My kudos to your mom (and parents) on their house project. It has numerous features that I want to use in my dream house so it would be interesting to learn more on it. I've been collecting solutions like those for many years, waiting to get to put them all together.
The way it is currently laid out, it uses one big draft chimney in the middle in a way similar to how the southern plantations kept those big homes cool (70 deg F all summer) by pulling air from either underground, the north side or the pool area. I assume yours is using the same principle. My difference is that I'm not using direct sunlight or even firewood exclusively (it's an option) to heat the chimney. I'm thermo-siphoning my excess solar heat to a zone that just heats the fireplace chimney. When choked for air, it heats the house. When the draft is allowed, it cools it. My auxiliary house blower is routed to simply enhance this effect but hopefully it will rarely be needed.
Being an automation engineer, the zoning becomes very simple. A person can even do this really cheap now by using a wireless router called the "Almond +". It basically allows someone to start a whole-house automation system in a $100 box. You can see it on kickstarter. It has a touchscreen interface that can talk to zigbee, Z-wave and WiFi devices (the open-sourced automated devices like switches, relays, thermostats and dimmers). Add a little Arduino controller and ala-cart a few of the thousands of code modules (that 13 year olds have written) and you can control just about anything. See the list of mix-and-match modules at www.ros.org - it's scary what there is already code written for!
(Side note: For about $300 and a compressor, a person could piece together a face tracking, turret mounted, 2400 FPS, 3D printed, fully automatic, air rifle with complete remote control. ...but who would want such a thing?!!!)
My pool design is pretty ambitious too. You may have heard of 'natural pools' where they use specific plants in channels around a regular pool to purify the water. There are no chemicals involved. Just grasses, plants, algaes on pottery and sometimes even some fishies. I'm planning to change that up a little. I want to create a gentle flow between two pools. One is for swimming and the other for a garden. The solar system has a large reservoir of heat which needs to be cooled to 90 F or so. So after it heats the house stuff (water heating, etc.) at 130 F, it goes to this water flow. It heats the water after the pond cleans it, and sends it to a hot tub section at 110 F. From there the water falls into the pool and then circulates back to the pond. Make-up water can no come from virtually any source (that's non-toxic) and start the process at the beginning of the pond. (Google ram pump) I hope to have at least 4 species of fish included.
Indoors, the grow-wheel somewhat follows what they're doing at http://www.omegagarden.com/ . I'm doing everything in a different way, like to hold the plants, to power the wheel, self balancing, feeding and even watering, but as far as the plants know, it's the same. I've eliminated all the consumables by doing it this way. Since my root watering now takes place 1-3 feet above the fish tank water line, the drops aerate the water too. This allows me to fill the tank almost 2 feet deep with no active aeration. Roots that get too long get 'trimmed' by the fish. Leaves, roots and other cuttings collect on the water and get 'encouraged' toward a simple conveyor that lifts them to a compost barrel. Think of this like a concrete mixer with a screen at the bottom. Turning this once per day with two big river rocks inside, chews up the material slow enough that I can host some black fly larvae inside. These little guys speed the composting process up to 24-48 hours while they eliminate all odors. Amazing stuff. Interesting also, is that just before they are ready to change to flies, they first climb to high ground to escape compost heat. With a ramp in their location, they will climb right over it and fall into the fish water for a high protein supplement to the worms the came from the compost screenings. Cool, huh?
The entire system takes 20-175 watts (depending on whether the LED grow lights are on) and less than a gallon per day make-up. It yields the equivalent of 150+ sq. feet of grow space in about 50 sq. feet of footprint. Due to rotating the plants, fruits and veggies are much meatier and the harvest cycle is shortened by 15 - 60%. Who needs food storage when you get a continuous crop every few days all year long?
Unfortunately, I have let that project go a little bit. My investment headhunting team wants me to focus more on the solar application of the Stirling. We've rewritten the business plan over a dozen times in the last 8 months and it's getting tedious. If you (or any other readers) PM me, we can skype and see what all might come of it, but I'm not going to discuss funding stuff here.
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