Our passive solar house is coming along very nicely. On Tuesday, our group continued to brainstorm and prototype different ideas for thermal masses and insulation. My previous idea was to put a brick in water, but I decided against it because water might restrict the brick’s powers as a thermal mass. Instead, W. Hamilton had the idea to use a ten-pound metal weight (as in the type one puts at the ends of a bench press), which works extremely well. We have seven pieces of foam that we plan to use to insulate the plastic box we are using as our house. The handle sides of the box will each get a piece of egg-crate foam, and between the two, a piece of glass will be suspended with two more pieces of smaller foam and a black fabric. At night, we will cover the glass both from inside and out. Also at night, we will cover the two side walls that we have left uncovered to let in light with more foam. The final piece of foam is on the bottom, beneath the weight, to insulate the house from the cold ground.
This project overall is going much better with my group because they aren’t messing around, so I’m actually able to gain ideas from them. This is especially important because the construction won’t be as simple as the K’Nex construction of the Mousetrap Vehicle, so it will require more thought from everybody. I’m also glad that I’m doing a much better job documenting our progress, though I should take more pictures.
Finally, I’m actually surprised by how much I’m learning from this. Though the best access to direct information is through actual lectures and reading, using this information in the construction of a model representative of a real-life situation is the best way to actually retain this knowledge that will let me use it in the future. I’ve already learned what kinds of materials act as the best insulators and thermal masses, what combinations of materials result in even better incarnations of these, and finally, what features are actually worth using (mirrors aren’t necessarily worth it). Fun experience!