A sizeable, enthusiastic crowd of curious tour-goers visited our Blissful Oaks custom home during the 18th annual Austin Cool House Tour on Sunday, June 8. This home earned 5 stars from the Austin Energy Green Building Program, and it won the 2014 Max Award for Best Green Home. As always, we had a blast meeting folks on the tour, answering questions, and showing them around. Here are just a few of the questions we answered most often.
How big is the rain tank? It's 30,000 gallons.
Is the rain tank the only source of water for this home? Yes.
That's a lot of water. How long did it take to fill up? We started collecting water in April 2013, and the tank was full by June that year. (See related story.) It's stayed pretty much full ever since then.
I don't understand. How is that possible? One inch of rain on 1000 square feet of roof gives you about 600 gallons of water. This house has a lot of roof surface, so every time it rains one inch, they get 3,773.4 gallons of water.
Well, what happens if they ever do run out of water? You can buy bulk water -- say 2,000 gallons for about a hundred bucks -- to tide you over. You can put water in a tank. You can't put water in a well that's gone dry.
What kind of windows are these? Anderson 100 Series windows. They're a fiberglass composite, energy-efficient window designed specifically for our hot climate.
Wow, I love the light in this room. Are those skylights at the ceiling? Don't those leak? Old-fashioned skylights have a reputation for leaking and for heating up a room. These are tubular daylighting devices, also called light tubes or light tunnels. They don't leak. And unlike traditional skylights, they bring in light while screening infrared rays that can overheat interiors as well as ultraviolet rays that can fade furniture and fabrics. These tubes also have LED lights for use at night.
The stained concrete floor looks nice. Can you do different colors? Sure. You can pick a color, or have a color matched.
How do you take care of a concrete floor? It's sealed with a penetrating sealer. You just sweep or vacuum, and then mop with a low-pH cleaner. Easy to care for.
I see a crack in the concrete. Is there a problem? No. All of our concrete slab foundations are built to the specifications of a structural engineer, just as the framing is built to engineered specifications. What you see is just a hairline crack, which is common and almost inevitable whenever you pour concrete in a warm climate like Texas. Most houses in central Texas have hairline cracks, but you don't see them because they're covered with carpet or some other flooring material. Home owners who choose to use the polished slab foundation as their floor know to expect hairline cracks, and they don't worry about it.
How big is the solar photovolatic system? It's a 6.24 kilowatt system, tied to the electric grid.
How big is this house? It's 3,532 of air conditioned space.
And how much air conditioning does it have? It has two 2-ton systems. That's 883 square feet per ton.
How long did it take you to build this home? We built it in five months. But we spent nearly a year planning and designing it. By the time we were ready to build, all the decisions had been made, so it went quickly and smoothly.
Were there any surprises? Well, yes. When the septic installer started digging, we discovered he was digging through dolomite, not limestone. Very unusual. Dolomite is extremely hard, and it took him much longer than expected.