What Sun, Wind, and Light?

We have a new space, an 82 year old coffee factory, where we’ll be moving our office and be able to expand our shop (aka materials & methods lab). To better understand where are are going and options for the building, we’ve been researching sustainable architectural ideas. It has been a mad dash through absorption chillers, solar concentrators, wind turbines, hydronic radiant cooling, geothermal closed loop heat exchangers, MgO concrete stucco…

One of the books we read is “Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies” by Mark DeKay and G. Z. Brown. Which really helped change our thinking. The main point they made was that mechanical heating and cooling should be the last resort. We had been looking there first being concerned about how to cool the space. So where do we start? Turns out we need data about the climate and environment to learn how the building reacts. Then we can better determine our options.

How’s the weather?

To monitor the climate, the external forces on the building, we looked at setting up a local weather station. There are so many options. We could build our own station with an Arduino or RaspPi and attach various sensors to them or buy pre-built systems. But as tempting as it was to build our own, we went with a pre-built solution. After scanning dozens of stations with various features and price points, we chose the Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus with 24-Hr Fan Aspirated Radiation Shield.

20141015 152619 BE7f iPhone 5

This weather station provides all the features we wanted and at a good price. Indoor/Outdoor temperature and humidity will help us see thermal and moisture dynamics. Wind Speed/Direction will show us potential for wind power, evaporative cooling, and ventilation. Solar radiation and UV Index relates to solar photovoltaic generation and solar hot water options. Rain collector points to rain catchment volumes for cooling and irrigation.

Setting It Up

Placing the weather station for us was easy. We put it on the roof which is flat and easily accessible. Since we’ve never run a weather station before, we used an Ambient Weather EZ-NPP Tripod and Mast so we can easily move the station and don’t need to pierce the roof with anchor bolts. Roofs leak. No point in helping them leak more.

20141024 111540 BE7f iPhone 5

20141024 115538 BE7f iPhone 5

20141024 124221 BE7f iPhone 5

We added two extension poles to the mast, raising the anemometer an extra four feet higher.

20141024 124201 BE7f iPhone 5

Another important step is grounding the mast. Our station is wireless so it isn’t directly connected to the electrical system.

20141025 181639 BE7f iPhone 5

For a grounding point, we took advantage of a water pipe that feeds up from the main water pipe that hangs through the center of the first floor. We’re using 6gauge bare copper wire used to ground rooftop antennas. We left the extra wire in case we need to move the station.

20141025 182837 BE7f iPhone 5

Getting Data

Two floors below is our weather console. A solar powered radio in the station transmits data to the Console.

20141024 112800 BE7f iPhone 5

We added WeatherLinkIP to our station mainly for the dongle that connects the Console to an IP Network. This allows us to pull data into WeatherSnoop 3 to an instrument panel. It then generates graphs and can export the data to many internet weather sites and our own web server.

20141024 130143 BE7f iPhone 5

Indigo has a WeatherSnoop plugin so we’ll be able to use weather data to automate devices like lights or fans with Insteon, Z-Wave, or X10.

20141016 124252 BE7f iPhone 5

Now What?

The climate is now instrumented. What about the environment? Inside the building we are putting up a wireless sensor network using XBee devices…