Searing temperatures, torrential rains and how we coped.

So! Our first summer in the earthship is coming to a close. It is still pretty warm here during the day but nights have cooled down enough to need a light cover on the bed. As you can see from the title of this post, Valencia has been subjected to some pretty extreme weather over the past few months. I was lucky enough to be in Australia for two of them and so missed most of the terrible heat, but Oscar bravely stuck it out. How was it, you ask?
Well, the design of our earthship has vertical windows as opposed to the sloping ones that you most often see. This was to ensure that the angle of the sun in summer would lessen the amount of light entering the house and therefore keep it cool. We also have 16mm climalit glass with a thermal coating on the inner layer. However neither measure is anywhere near enough to stop the heat of the sun hitting the glass and convecting in through the house during the long, torrid summer days. Our bedroom, which had little plant cover and no trees outside shading the windows, got up to 30º celsius (outside it was generally between 39 and 45ºC). We need blinds! I tried some old sheets when I got back from my trip and though they provided slight relief it really wasn't enough. The inner section of Carla's bedroom, which has a partition wall shading it from the light was the coolest room of all, but was still in the mid to high 20s. The skylights in each room (120cm square - huge things) were another source of heat and will also have to have their own little coverings. Of course we haven't had enough money to buy these lovely blinds yet, but they are a priority for the coming year. We just need to save about 4500 US dollars. Ho hum.

Towards the end of September we had absolutely incredible rains for about two weeks. The tanks filled up and overflowed on the first day it was so heavy (they were at about half capacity so that means in one afternoon we collected about 17,000 litres of water). And it just kept raining. At first there were no drips and I was well pleased but after about the fourth day water had wangled its insidious way into the roof and we had to have a few buckets and saucepans strategically placed around the floor. I think the main problem comes from the openeings in the roof. I suppose this is logical but I still can't understand where it is getting in. Everything seems to be tighly sealed. I do have a theory, but to prove it I have to dismantle the skylights and pull up sections of the metal roofing. Not something I am looking forward to but it will have to be done. Luckily the drips are only that, little drips. A more serious problem was that the outer wall in our bedroom grew a damp patch. It was about 2 metres up and about 50cm in diametre. How odd. Investigation revealed an enormous ant's nest dug right up against the wall into the earth berm which had simply flooded with all the rain, running the water up against the tyres and mud, though these are covered with a layer of plastic as per earthship instructions.
We have to fill the ant's nest and pile some more dirt on top.
The damp area has already dried itself out. This is the great wonder of mud wall coverings, they breath and dry so well, no peeling paint or bulging render. Phew.

Comments

  1. Wow. We had had some nasty torrents back here in southwest Kansas, but they never came close to this

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  2. It could be worse, you could be in Ireland where we seem to get the rain all the time! This year was no better and even in summer the temperature only reached 20C on a couple of days. Never mind, we move to Spain at Xmas so will be expereiencing some warmth ourselves hopefully.
    Look forward to seeing you guys again soon

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  3. If you plant grapes for your windows that provide shade and delicious grapes

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  4. Hello Lisa & Oscar,

    So glad to find your blog - what an adventure it has been for you!! I am about to embark on my own build sometime in the next 2 years and have started researching a lot...

    Just a question about rainwater collection in general - did you do anything to the rainwater tank to prevent it from getting mouldy / unhealthy?

    Even though the water is filtered, I suppose that keeping (almost) stagnant water for long periods of time (e.g. if it doesn't rain much for a long time) doesn't do much good the water supply? Doesn't it get tainted, or taste funny, or harbour bad bacteria that survive even after boiling?

    Cheers,

    David

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  5. David, this is one of our main worries. We will have the water tested soon but for now, we are only filtering it out and it doesn't taste/smell funny once it has been through the drinking filter. the non-potable water sometimes has a slightly rubbery smell which I suppose is from the tanks. we filter out debris with mosquito net baskets and then hope for the best. will let you know once we do the analysis.
    lisa

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