HomeArticlesMan Living in a Sustainable & Innovative Earthship Home – Full Tour
Man Living in a Sustainable & Innovative Earthship Home – Full Tour
October 19, 2019
>>DANIELLE: Hey everyone in this video, we’re visiting a stunning three-bedroom Earthship home in Ontario, Canada. The house was built with recycled tires. It has a massive 10 kW solar power system. It collects and stores rainwater for flushing the toilets. It recycles greywater through the indoor gardens and it has a wood-fired boiler for the in-floor radiant heating system. This house isn’t a typical Earthship and we love the creative ways that the builder has found to adapt the design for his lifestyle, location and climate. Let’s go check it out. This video is sponsored by NordVPN. We’ll give you more information about them at the end and a discount code for a great deal on their VPN service. [Music Playing]>>MATT: With this Earthship, we have two bedrooms down this wing and then there is a third bedroom down the other end with another living room. I have rented that space out to a friend that I met actually through Airbnb. Once in a while, we will even rent out this room on Airbnb to share it with people online as well and they are able to experience the earthship and get inspired to maybe build or do their own thing, too. That is a big part of why I did this and shared it as I went along was just to be able to encourage like-minded thinking and encourage other people that they can do it too. [Music Playing] So we are in the great room here, kitchen is to my left and then the living room here. We are all walking around in bare feet and right now, it is summer temperatures and our feet are nice and cool. So that is one of the cool passive features about building with cement is that it is cooling right now in our summer and our sun angle is not low. So the winter it is low when it comes in, it charges the floor, charges the back wall. But in the summer, the sun is going high and so it’s not coming into the space at all. In fact, when the sun is shining, it only comes a little bit into the greenhouse and doesn’t charge the thermal mass. The other thing that is massive in here that’s cement is these buttresses so these buttresses are put in about every 15 to 20 feet and they are a support piece that is holding the earth back. So when I talk about charging a thermal mass, basically it is like charging a battery. Essentially, we all understand how to charge a battery. So this is our sun or heat battery and the sun is charging that battery, that heat battery, the thermal mass of the floor. And so, right now it is not charging it. So it’s great! So it’s cool on our feet but in the winter it is charging it and also charging these buttresses, so like adding heat energy to anything that is cement and connected. All these design principles that we’re talking about that is so cool it’s Michael Reynolds who figured these out. He’s the Guru behind this and and has been doing this for over 25 years in New Mexico. So when I was interested in Earthships like 20 years ago when I was in college, and I was like this is the coolest thing and it was only 5 or 6 years ago that I had the time and money to go down there and learn from Michael Reynolds. So I did a two month internship there, learnt about the buildings and got hands-on experience and in-class experience and then when I came back here, I found some land to buy and I found one of the guys who used to work for Michael Reynolds who had gone on his own, Ted Elsasser. He was able to come here and spend 2 summers consecutively. He was a key part to the build but he was only here for those 2 months. Then, I was on my own with whatever other general contractors I could bring in to do the building of the structure. So I’ve been living here for 2 years, and so I’ve sort of seen it work and I’m really happy with how it’s performing. One of the main principles in Earthships is food production. So being able to grow your own food throughout the whole season inside is a great asset. We’ve got these cool planter cells and there’s 2 of them in this building. These white tubes allow you to sort of see where the standing level of the water is and so they’re a greywater holding cell. So when we wash our hands or have a shower, the water flushes into here before it goes out to the septic tank. Below the soil, you’ve got one foot of A gravel and then filter cloth, a foot of sand, and then filter cloth; and that kind of acts like a bit of a filter itself then above that is our one foot of soil. So that’s what the plants are growing in is that one foot of soil, but the water sits in the sand level and then through the plants…can like little straws, basically it can suck up that water from down low. So once the plants are established then we don’t need to water them. It’s been great to be able to grow our own food and just come out here and pick it as needed in the kitchen. It’s super fun! So we’re just in one of the bathrooms of the Earthship, and I wanted to showcase when we catch the water off the roof and flush the toilet that we have 2 options basically. We’re always typically flushing the rainwater and using that to flush our poop and pee out to the septic bed. We have the ability to also hook onto town water. So if I didn’t have enough rainwater sitting in my tank in the back and I wasn’t able to flush the toilet and nothing was happening or filling up then I would just switch this line to the town line and still have water coming in. So it’s always nice to have 2 ways to do things. So just like in the heating source where I’ve got wood or propane, we’ve got town or roof water; and so you always have backups in your systems, is always a good idea. So we’re in my bedroom closet and this is where I decided to put my truth window. So in a lot of straw bale builds and Earthship builds, they have a truth window. So this is a spot where you can see behind the wall, and we’re able to see the tire work. There are over a thousand tires in the build. So they are all sourced locally just from going around to different tire places. So we’re in the right side of my building is a garage/workshop and this is also sort of where our mechanical room is. I just had a lot of space within the room to be able to build all this beautiful plumbing wall. So this is where the wood-fired boiler is that heats the water that goes into this tank here. So when I get a fire going, I try to get it between 120 to 150 degrees. Then it takes that water and puts it through these six different jets, into six different zones in the house. So on the thermostat command it will send it to different rooms to keep it at that moderate temperature. And so if I’m not heating with wood, then we’ve got it backed up with this on-demand propane. And it will just kick on and keep it at 120 when it goes into the floors. So the convenience about heating water and then putting it into the floor, is that your floors are thermal mass. So then it’s working in conjunction with the sun. So the sun is coming in and this is a south-facing Earthship. So the sun coming in in the winter, say we want it to charge that thermal mass, your floor, to heat it and then this is adding heat to that already heated floor by the sun or if it’s a cloudy day, then obviously it’s boosting it that way. So we just fire wood in here and then heat her up. There’s a thermostat here that tells us our temperature and we want to get it between 200 and 250 and then once it’s set between 200 to 250. Then it starts pumping through this and into there to store heated water. So we’re still in the garage, this is where electrical the grid feed system comes into the house. And so the solar panels are right above us here because you want to have a nice short run of wire because it’s an expensive wire that runs from the solar panels down to your inverter and basically this sends the power back to the grid. So we got in on the government program just before it closed out and I think the buy back was that they were buying our power back at 28 cents a kilowatt. But we only pay between 11 and 17 cents a kilowatt. So that’s how you make money back is through a monthly check. I still pay them but then they also send me a check for whatever I make. So it will take between 10 and 15 years and then the solar panels will be paid off. The solar panels I put in are a 10 kW system and they cost around $30,000 or $40,000 to put in because I had to have a racking system to hold them on a certain angle. Often Earthships will have the tires and then on top of the tires, they will have cement lime finish that’s like an Adobe finish or they will move from cement to a clay plaster. So I was able to find this clay locally. It just had this pinkish hue and I really didn’t like the pink clay look and so I just came up with this new idea of how to clad my walls. It doesn’t work on the idea of storing the thermal mass into the wall because I don’t have the cement but it looks pretty cool. These are reclaimed pieces of pine from a local builder. He’s a log home builder. And these are his off cuts and it makes it look and feel kind of like a log home. So we are at the back of the Collingwod Earthship and we are just back here to show you some of the features. So the back has these two cisterns that are buried in the earth. The cisterns have some insulation around them and they are buried about 4 feet in the earth. And that is catching water off the roof and that water then goes in and we use that for flushing the toilets. So we recycle our gray water as well through a catchment system that puts it into the planter cells and those planter cells are then passively watered from below and then when the water gets to a certain level it overflows out into the cisterns at the front. So that’s kind of how a lot of earthships use and reuse their water. The other thing that we’re pretty proud of is just all of our rock work. It was something that I learned along the way was building with rocks and cement and so it’s been kind of fun to repurpose like fieldstone, granite field stone, into the walls and make it look even more earthy. Back here, we can even see the cooling tubes that go through the berm basically so it’s a 10-inch tube that goes 15 feet through the berm and then enters each of the rooms have either one or two of these cooling tubes and in the front of the house in the greenhouse we’ve got whirlybirds which are an out vent that we open those vents at the top and then have these ones open down low. And so that’s how we passively cool the house in the summer and it works great! It does definitely bring down the temperature and you feel the air flow coming in. In the winter, we just keep them closed up so that the air doesn’t come in and we’ve got them double screened and meshed so that no insects or bugs get in there as well. So it works two ways: number one, it works through what is called the stack effect. So basically with the air coming in at a low point and then going out at a high point. That’s how the air gets sort of drawn out and then as the air passes through the earth it helps to cool it as well through those 15 feet of earth. These ones that I’ve set up are totally passive and the air just sort of gets drawn in through that stack effect and goes through on its own. The way we heat this Earthship is through a wood-fired boiler and when I am not firing the wood, then this is our backup system and so with every build in Ontario, you need to have some kind of a backup so electrical heat, propane, or through natural gas. You have to have some source that just comes automatically and heats your house if you are not going to be there. So this was what I chose here in this scenario. just because it worked well with my wood-fired boiler and it also does our domestic water. So it will heat our shower or wash the clothes. It will heat that on demand as well. So just 2 tanks and I figured out that I burned half of what the houses that are in the front of my property. I have a couple of other houses and they burn twice as much and they are half the size of my house. So we are able to supplement a lot by wood and the wood is also typically just reclaimed from projects that I am doing or local builders or whatever, I’ll do a bit of dumpster-diving for wood if I need to. [Music Playing] When I was younger and growing up, I just really wanted to give back to the environment and just was really environmentally conscious and in school, I just took recreation leadership. So I always liked being outside and I knew that this type of building used recycled bottles and cans and reused tires. It just has to be a good thing and then be conscious of sun angles and solar gain and all these things working together, it just made sense! The other thing that hooks a lot of people is the fact that they think “Oh, it’s a cheap way to build” because you’re recycling all these things. It can be cheap. It can be done cheap, but it also takes a lot of labour. So for example collecting probably took a month or 2 and then the pounding the tires took another 2 or 3 months. So it is a lot of work to put it all together. But then once it is built, it is there forever and it is an amazing building and it works well. [Music Playing]>>DANIELLE: If you are interested in Earthships, we have had the chance to visit quite a few and you can check them out in our Earthship video playlist. We will put a link to that in the description of the video. If you want to learn more about Matt’s Earthship build, we will link to his blog down below as well. We want to thank NordVPN again for sponsoring this video. NordVPN is a virtual private network service that you can activate to get a secure connection when you are using the Internet. We use a lot of public Wi-Fi networks when we travel and when we are in the van and we really like having a NordVPN so we can turn it on when we are logging into our bank accounts or entering passwords. Using NordVPN is also a really great way to make sure you are using the internet without censorship because you can choose the country that you browse the Internet from regardless of where you are actually located. There is also no bandwidth limit so you can use it as much as you want. If this sounds like something that might be helpful for you, NordVPN is offering our audience 75% off a three-year plan which ends up being just $2.99 a month. You can get the deal at NordVPN.com/exploringalternatives and use our ‘exploringalternatives’ discount code to get an extra month free. So again, you can get 75% off a three-year plan, when you go to NordVPN.com/exploringalternatives and you can use our ‘exploringalternatives’ discount code to get an extra month free. We will put all of this in the description below. If you like this video, please share it. Thanks so much for watching and we will see you next time.