In 1976 we obtained property in Cambridge, Kings County, Nova Scotia in a rural area. This had a nice 6 acre field on which we planned to build our home in Nova Scotia. During the years of 1977-78, I spent my days designing the house to sit on the field. It was to be enery efficient and heated with solar energy. It was to be a passive solar building with supplemental heat coming from wood heat. There was to be no central heating system.
I finished the design and started building in 1978. I did a lot of the construction myself with the help of some energenic young helper that I hired. The building was finished in 1979 and we moved in in September. The layout of the house was open to allow heat to easily move between rooms and levels.
The house has no basement and the lower level is nestled into the north side of a small hill with the south side all above ground. The floor was insulated concrete with ceramic tile covering.
A description of the house is on the four pages shown below. These sheets were written shortly after the house was built, and reflect its conditions then. Since then there have been changes and additions to the solar aspects of the house (click on the page thumbnail to see a larger, readable version).
Windows in the solar wall on the south side of the house were a mixture of 'home-built' solar windows and commercial double-pane glass windows. The solar windows were glazed with Kalwall, a fibre-glas reinforce polyester sheet in a two layer system. Bifold insulated shutters were built inside to cover these during evenings, and cold, dark days. The commercial windows had wooden frames and these were difficult to keep in good conditon. The Kalwall glazing, after 30 years of use, turned white and became less transparent.
In 2012 and 14, all of the windows on the south wall were replaced with low-e coated, efficient double glazing. Now all the windows are glass and none are translucent polyester. Insulation behind the windows are now open cell blinds and quilted shades. During replacement, the size of the windows were reduced because of over heating in some of the rooms, especially on the second floor. The layout of the windows in the current case is shown in the following elevation drawing. Although there is less glazing to collect solar radiation, that area is now well insulated and there is less heat loss through windows.
The changes in the house are shown in the images that follow (click on the thumbnails for larger image). Note the change in type and area of the window coverage. The distribution of windows is now different with all 93.8 sq.ft of clear glass upstairs and 111.5 downstairs. There are now windows which are no longer full length and will be completely shaded more due to the roof and 2nd story overhangs. All downstair windows are full length but upstairs 56 sq.ft of the 93.8 sq.ft. are 1/2 height windows. Compare this with the original window area of 270 sq.ft. of which 146 sq.ft were upstairs and 124 sq.ft. was downstairs. The upstairs decreased from 146 to 94 sq.ft and the downstairs from 124 to 111 sq.ft. The upstairs still overheats on a bright sunny day.
The house still only requires about two cords of hardwood to heat for a typical winter in Nova Scotia.
Interior view of the current window coverings on those on the second floor is given below. These quilted shades roll down and are sealed to the window frame by spring loaded wood slats. This decreases the leakage of warm air from the room into the space between the shade and the window pane.