Mil, not mill, house. Mother In Law House. Every time I say it I get the voice of Peter from Family Guy exclaiming “Road House”. So, there was the whole amusing myself aspect of writing this article, rather than any idea of education, illumination or tickling anyone’s grey matter. No matter, this wouldn’t be the first time. The Mil House is just a way to get grid-down ready if you don’t already have a suitable structure and aren’t going to be moving any time soon.
If you are renting, or live in a condo ( it didn’t really seem like that whole concept ever really caught on widely, did it? Kind of like a HOA met an apartment, lack of control negating the real cost savings ), or are in a climate that is way too harsh for a ticky tack box, or need to save money over a whole house insulation addition, a Mil House might be for you. You can also just refurbish the garage if that is cheaper ( or, just a room within the house/condo/apartment ). Replace the door with a wall, add south windows, insulate the floor and everywhere else. Or even build in a room within the garage, using the existing walls as a outer layer to create that dead air space as added insulation.
The room within the garage is probably the cheapest option. Design the room like you would a old civil defense fallout shelter. Narrow bunk beds, storage under the floor. Water tank under the bottom bed. A very compact space. Me, personally? The new adopted family? I would kill them in the first hour without an escape. Perhaps think about two compact rooms side by side with a soundproof door and wall in between with just shared meal prep facilities. Maybe a bathroom in the middle? There is no right or wrong way to do it, just consider how friggin rude everyone is anymore due to the regular electronic bubble that we inhabit.
If the garage doesn’t work, there is the backyard. Remember, the reason you would need this is because your regular shelter can’t be extra insulated or run on alternate energy. It might be cheaper to build a whole Mil House than install a new chimney in the regular house. It isn’t actually for a mother in law to move in, or the thirty year old child, but about having a ready made shelter that will stay comfortable during grid down ( however long that might last ). Not everyone needs a Mil House. But judging by the amount of readers living on grid, quite a few just might.
I wouldn’t use a travel trailer or RV unless you get it extra cheap, because you’ll use about the same amount of materials retrofitting that as you would just building from scratch. Either way, you’ll want a second roof and trellises to keep it cool in hot weather, with solar heaters ( separate glass covered black box to collect heat that enters the window ) for winter, and well insulated inside. Of course there are ways of duplicating this in the house, such as creating a tent out of your bed, but here we are assuming you need everything such as rain collection and solar panels and alternate heat and water and etcetera and it is just easier doing a separate structure. Or, if building inside, simply more insulated space.
If you are really poor, remember the hexagon house. You want the “Star Plate Frame Connectors” from Strombergs Chickens dot com. They are about $100 for the kit. Not the greatest for rain catchment but great at reducing the building material needed. Cover with chicken wire and soak blankets or sheets in wet cement then drape over the wire and let set. You can then add insulation and stucco. If you are refurbishing an RV, you need to strip out everything and add insulation. Ideally, all this is under a tree for summer shade, to eliminate the second roof and side trellises.
And forget RV appliances. They are cheaply made and too expensive. Just substitute camping gear. The propane cast iron stove and an indoor heater of low BTU ( if needed-preferable would be a cob rocket stove. Not much more than clay with added plant fibers ). A sawdust bucket toilet. Hand pump to the water tank ( if not just gravity fed individual systems ). Your choice, solar panel with LED lights or cheaper, lanterns with AA batteries with its own solar charging unit.
You might not even need a stand alone shelter. You could just build on to the side of the garage, a bit of a lean-to design like you would to cover lumber supplies ( but enclosed ). Just double wall insulate, with the studs altering so they don’t draw out heat. If you can afford to, triple wall insulate, with a sheet of rigid board insulation in between the two walls of studs. Consider a Murphy Bed or hide-a-bed or a bunk bed with a desk or kitchenette underneath for space savings. A closet can be a dowel hanging over the bed. There are plenty of ways to make a very small space comfortable, and small spaces are easier to heat.
Of course, I’d prefer the dug-out shelter, but the wife or weather might have other ideas. But if possible, this might be the way to also save money. Little insulation is needed if the earth is a seasonal temperature battery. Think of it as a root cellar to pay its own way, and you can seal the floor with material set aside if you must occupy it. And, if tornados aren’t an issue, you might want an exposed wall window so the thing isn’t a dark hole in the ground. But that makes it a dug-out, which is preferable to a root cellar, all things considered. You could simply park a panel van in the back and retrofit that, if tiny spaces were okay ( I can’t see that as much of a solution, unless you just needed a nighttime and storm shelter ). Many different ways to go about prepping for off grid, besides just throwing tens of thousands of dollars at redoing the McMansion.
END ( today's related link http://amzn.to/2xTeLgn )
* By the by, all my writing is copyrighted. For the obtuse out there
Let me clarify something that has been passed around for quite some time by people that should not be doing so. It's not uncommon around here for weeks to by in winter with no sun at all, just long expanses of gray sky, very depressing. So the idea of putting a cheaply made hot house on the south facing side of the crib will be a deficit rather than an asset.ReplyDelete
Remember this physics principle: cold flows to hot
Not the other way around, and the reason is cold air is heavier than hot air, so it gets to push the heat out of it's way as it infiltrates everything.
So, you want to put a solar collector on the south side of your crib to collect and *store* heat that is then released into the house to keep it warm. Yes, you need good construction materials and practices, but the most important part is the storing of the solar heat. A "heat sink" is a thing that actively seeks out heat, captures it, then stores it. The best heat sinks are natural, like stone, but can also be concrete, and water. And they have to have substantial *mass*. 2" of the finest stone in the world won't do it. It just doesn't have the horsepower. You need at least 12" thick stone that is very closely interlocked. Again, concrete will work but only about 50% efficient as stone. I'm talking BIG solid stones, preferably flat on top. Perhaps they can be ground down some way. Big flat stones will collect the heat as no other material can. They need to be insulated from the ground under them and must be isolated in all ways from outside influence.
Stone is also a cold sink. If proper measures are not employed to collect and store the solar heat then the stones will act reverse to what you want. Also, a stone wall from floor to ceiling at the rear of the space will continue the heat sink effect. Triple glazing floor to ceiling glass and all joints must be super tight and sealed. You only want the radiant heat aspects of the sun penetrating the space. If you sit a few large 50 gallon black barrels full of water in the space that will help also, unless you have other plans for the space. Remember though, done properly, the space will be too hot to occupy full time for you have just created a full size solar over. The heat can be controlled with blinds or other types of internal shielding.
Thing is, the expense of a solar room is a one time expense, and it continues to work for you as long as you live there. There will be some yearly maintenance but if good materials and workmanship are employed it should be minimal. Pulling and replacing caulk, replacing broken windows, etc.
If you can fill that room with solar panels and thermal water heaters you can get double whammy out of your investment.
They call me the planner.
If it is an enclosed sunk porch, and you open the door when the sun is shining but close otherwise, wouldn't you get the short term benefits without the down side? Not optimal compared to a heat sink, but perhaps all that is affordable?Delete
Opening a door would have no effect other than some radiated heat loss through the air, after it is released from the heat sink. Remember, we're talking about radiant heat, not heated air. If the stone floor continued back through the rest of the building it too would store the heat. It's a neat concept but I've never actually seen it employed successfully. Only in concept. That's the problem with living your life in Florida, it limits exposure to other ways. Nobody in FL is interested in storing heat.Delete
Radiant heat is a concept some people can't grasp, my wife for example. We have radiant heaters but she thinks she can just turn them on when she's cold, like a forced air furnace, but they don't work that way. They don't heat the air, like the furnace does, they haet the things in the space, floors, walls, ceiling, funiture, etc., then those things release the stored heat back into the room. Takes a while for the space to get up to the required temp but once it does the heaters cycle on and off with very little diff in the temp. I have a Procom propane wall mounted radiant heater here in my office and I think it's great. Takes about a day to stabilize then I don't have to touch the thermostat til spring. And it only cost $125 plus about $50 from the propane company to install.Delete
Sorry, I was talking about the sun room without heat sink.Delete
I am glad you discovered Starplates fair haired God of the high desert. I built one back in the eighties and went back to check on it about five years ago and it was still solid as a rock. In fact, I am getting ready to build another one in SC and appreciate your ferrocement idea. Liberty ships in WW2 were built the same way and the ones that survived the bombs and torpedoes stayed in service almost to the end of the century. as for water catchment, build it on top of a deck and use the whole area to do the deed.ReplyDelete
I didn't realize the Navy ships were ferrocement. You just hear about the pre-fab metal ones going up in a few dozen hours.Delete
Liberty ships were merchant marine and not Navy, but still caught hell all over the world, from the Baltics to the Pacific seas, they were a real workhorse.Delete
Okay, more "new to me". Cool, thanks.Delete
Sounds like a good call on the camping appliances. A propane or even white gas stove will cook quite a bit both indoors and out without needing electricity or gas connection to structure.ReplyDelete
If operating windows aren't needed (I believe building code requires operating windows with sill a certain height at bedrooms), consider glass block inserts. More temperature insulated and can be used for lighting if placed just below ceiling, which allows light to spill over its surface. A standard window is a lot of outside glare and allows viewing into building.
Good topic - thanks for allowing a discussion of this.
Forgot all about glass blocks. A stable of "Miami Vice" TV shows, you wanted one just because they looked so cool. Didn't think about them as better insulation.Delete
Yes, sleeping rooms must have an operable window with a clear opening of at least 7.5 square feet and a sill no higher than 44" above the finished floor. This has been the law nationwide since at least the 70's.Delete
Cooling is the issue in my neck of the woods. I'm currently enjoying heat rash & sleepless nights (no air-con). I do have a hammock I can hang outside but privacy is at a premium at the moment thanks to idiot neighbour cutting down all the trees in his yard so now we stare into each others yard.ReplyDelete
You seriously have to hate neighbors. Thank goodness for acre lots, out of the city. Cuts down the annoyance, although it's not eliminated.Delete
Thank goodness for 40 acre parcel with the nearest seasonal neighbor 2 miles away over a hill. :-D no grid available though solar or wind or go back to the city...Delete
Oddly it takes the Fire department about as long to respond there as it took the police to respond when we lived in the city 5 blocks from the PD...
I was visiting Reno a few years ago. Insane traffic. You weren't allowed to change lanes. And, no one moved over for emergency vehicles. Hate to see how much worse LV is. Buttholes, everyone. You only wish their dumbass selves would ignore the road as they talked on the cell and got in a wreck and they died waiting for an ambulance. Alas, never such luck.Delete
I kind of like the idea of adding another room to an existing house, particularly if you can create a secret room. I read just recently that the curators at the Winchester Mansion just discovered a new secret chamber. The house up the road from us had part of the upper story converted into a secret grow room for marijuana. This wasn’t discovered until after the house sold.ReplyDelete
Some of the MIL cottages and sheds that I’ve seen in some of these people’s yards are nicer than my house.
For Earth sheltered, I think that one of the easiest methods is like the Storey publication that I sent you some time back: “Build Your Own underground Root Cellar”. Dig down 4’, and 3’ remains above ground, build up sides with straw flakes, and cover with plastic and a light layer of Earth. It uses building blocks though, which could be a pain in the ass to deal with. There are probably easier methods out there. I’ve thought about finding a junk hatchback vehicle, and partially burying it (Again, a few feet would still be above ground) nose first into the side of a hill, hatch facing out. Again, you’d want to cover it with polyethylene. Even though there would be very little load on the roof, you would want to reinforce the roof structure in case some yahoo tried to drive over it.
Still can't go wrong with the Oehler underground book http://amzn.to/2yHhtXEDelete
Yeah, I also have that book in a PDF. If I recall correctly he was mostly using raw timbers driven straight into the ground. I particularly liked the way that his homes blended in so well that you couldn’t even see them until you were right up on them. Great book, but I was thinking in terms of someone like myself that lacks the skills to do anything construction related beyond basic.Delete
I just found out about a month ago that the dude died a year and a half ago. That’s unfortunate. He was an old hippy, but anyone that opposes feminism has at least retained some level of common sense.
It would be much easier to "quikcret" posts than to do cinderblocks. Fasten two 2x4's to make a post, anchor, planks facing wall with plastic sheeting between dirt and wood. That's about it ( roof would be a bit more involved, but for the root cellar also ).Delete
Consider the hexayurt (http://hexayurt.com/) assemble from Celotex-like board and (good quality) duct tape. You'll need to strap it down in windy areas. Almost as fast as putting p a tent, and about as cheap.ReplyDelete
I wonder if it would take the weight of the wet blankets? Do away with the 2x4's ( inside bracing to be later removed? )Delete