The mainstays of modern home insulation are fiberglass, rigid foam and cellulose. But there are natural alternatives to these which are worth considering, especially if you're going for super-green construction!
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One unusual feature of many passive solar homes is that they are partially buried. Given the natural human dislike of living underground, this often strikes people as a "caveman" approach to efficient living but, in reality, it is an efficient means of conserving potentially enormous amounts of energy. And no, living in a home that uses earth berming or earth sheltering is not like living in a cave!
One of the most important factors in energy efficiency is home insulation. And one of the most important parts of insulation is keeping the material dry. There are two reasons for this:
Before you start any serious plumbing work, make sure you have the right tools. Your system schematic (you did create one, didn't you?) will tell you how much piping you need, as well as all the fittings and other consumables required.
You will also need:
There is a definite art to plumbing with copper pipes. Thankfully it's fairly quick to learn, though your first few cuts and joins are likely to produce amateur results. If you've never installed copper pipes before, buy some extra parts and practice!
If you're new to plumbing, you will want to practice soldering pipes before you try your skills on an actual solar thermal installation. It's not difficult but it's extremely important to do the job well or you'll get leaks and other problems. Practice makes perfect!
Back when modern radiant floor systems were first installed, copper or steel pipes were used. They were embedded in concrete under the floor and hot water ran through them to heat the building. It doesn't take a genius to see where the problems came from:
There is an upper limit on how much Pex tubing you can use in a radiant heating installation. If the circuit is too long, the solar fluid will cool off before it reaches the end and you will get uneven heating. For standard-sized Pex tubes (half-inch or 5/8-inch internal diameter), the circuit length should not exceed 300 feet – which is conveniently the size of the coil supplied by many manufacturers.
Before you begin laying Pex tubes into your heating area, you must prepare the ground. The area should be flat and level, with the insulation in place and a vapor barrier under the insulation. If you are going to enclose the Pex tubes in a slab, you can cover the insulation with reinforcing wire or rebar.