Here we have the amazing self-sustaining Rittenhouse home; a totally self sufficient, energy efficient, stand alone, and independent house of the present and future. The heart of the Rittenhouse self-sustaining home is the massive under-ground horizontal cylindrical stainless steel storage tanks which contain nothing more than ordinary water. Each tank rests on a pair of cement cradles. The entirety of the tank is then encased with diatomaceous earth; which is a type of volcanic ash that insulates the tanks very well from the surrounding earth and environmental temperatures. As a general rule of simplicity one tank is generally chilled with a heat pump, and the heat is recovered from the process and heats the next tank. This configuration can also be varied as season and climatic conditions demand. The third tank, on the left side of this particular diagram, is a rain-water collection tank. The collection tank is used for a variety of purposes including replenishing the fresh water supply for the home, watering the landscape, and refreshing any water that might have escaped or evaporated from the heating and cooling system or tanks.
All the way on the top of the peak of the home you can see a solar water distiller that runs the length of the peak of the home. The solar water distiller provides pure water mainly for the use of the human inhabitants of the home, such as for drinking and cooking. The blue tank which appears on the third level of this diagram is where the solar distilled water is stored and then gravity fed to the home. If left unused for some reason and the tank happens to fill all the way up, the distilled water will recycle back to the under-ground collection tanks. A drain tube also leads from the solar-distiller to drain and purge and residue or mineral deposits that may have accumulated in the distiller over time. To better describe the solar-water distiller, it is basically a small green-house covered with glass. In the base of the distiller are three compartments. The middle and biggest compartment has an automatic fill valve and float that keeps the water in the compartment at a constant level. The base of the compartment is black in color; which helps heat the water and evaporates it. The evaporated water then condenses and collects on the glass and drips down the glass into the two outside reservoir compartments where it is collected and drains into the distilled water collection tank.
The domestic hot water for the home is produced by thermo-siphon solar panels. The thermo-siphon tank is located just below the solar water distiller above the thermo-siphon solar panel. The tank must be mounted above the collector panel for the siphon process to work most efficiently. It uses the basic principal of convection to circulate the water between the collector panel and tank, there are no moving parts to wear out and it is a very efficient way of heating the water to be used in the home. A pressure pop-off valve is located on each solar collector tank, and drains back into the rain-water collection system, along with a freeze and drain valve located at the bottom of the panel. An electrical element can be added to the solar collection tanks, in case of unforeseen periods of extremely cold and overcast periods without sun. Several sets of thermo-siphon panels and tanks can be set up in a series, or groups of series, each group assigned to a particular task depending on demand.
Below the thermo-siphon solar panel, and also running the length of the roof is a row of photo-voltaic solar panels for producing electricity from the sun. Electrical wire carrying direct current from the photo-voltaic panels leads to a power regulator control panel and power converter. The power control panel directs the power to an array of batteries which store the electricity from the photo-voltaic solar panels. The batteries are charged during the day and are used at night. The power control panel also has a power inverter which converts the direct current into normal house-hold alternating current to be used by conventional appliances. The battery array is also assisted by wind powered generators such as the one on top of the periscope sky-light tower.
The periscope sky-light tower protrudes above the peak of the roof line. On top of the periscope is a set of windows and inside the periscope is a mirror at approximately 45 degrees that bounces sun light into the back of the home. The mirror is on mounted on a type of treadle that can be adjusted for optimum performance. The base of the periscope can also sometimes have another mirror thus completing a true periscope with a southern view of the horizon from inside the rear of the home. Perhaps a refraction cone is most to your liking, dispersing the light diffusely throughout the home. It can also be channeled into several auxiliary sun-tubes if you would prefer. Note also the Omni type wind generator mounted on top of the periscope way up high, where it can get lots of wind. A home with several periscopes can have several of these type wind generators, each mounted on its own periscope.
On the north side of the home, on the roof just under the sky-light periscope in this diagram, you can see the water cooling stairs. Much like a conventional water cooling tower, it circulates a closed loop of water to exhaust excess heat and assist in the cooling of the home. This is quite practical especially when hot summer days and cool summer nights come into play. The system can store up the cool water it produced during the night to cool the home during the day. A blower at the top of the water cooling stairs forces air through the steps of the stairs like several little water falls, acclimating the water to the air temperature. The blower is low voltage and works quite well with the low power systems of the photo-voltaic panels and wind generators without being converted.
The recovery heat-pumps can be seen on the ground behind the home, just over the pump room. Using a minimum of power and heat collected by a set of active solar panels and cooling by a geo-thermal ground loop; they can either chill or heat the living area of the home year round. Coupled with the heat-pumps, cooling stairs, active solar panels, geo-thermal loops, and large storage tanks; a minimum amount of energy is required and is far within the energy produced by the other systems of the home. Note that the upper and lower levels of the home have separate heat-pumps and each level has its own heat ventilation and air conditioning systems. A heat exchange ventilation system replenishes the home with each unit several times per hour, so you will always have lots of fresh air. Each level is also divided into zones and the heat-pumps can work in tandem or individually with several sets of baffles in the air handlers to keep the home at a constant desirable temperature all year round.
On the south side of the home is a rather large green-house. A thick rock wall between the green-house and home provides a large thermo mass that helps keep the home warm in winter, and cool in summer. Radiant heating and cooling tubes are also run in the flooring and the rock wall to maximize the solar gain and loss associated with the green-house's normal cycles. Best of all the green-house is home to lot's of plants and vegetables that make the home such a nice place to live. As you walk out of the main corridor of the home through the green-house you are right at the pool, and it's a great place for a swim too. The pool is placed in such a manner that in the winter it reflects most of the light directly back to all of the solar panels on the home, but in the summer when the sun is high in the sky it reflects some of the light back up over the home. Several fountains and fish ponds also surround the home making it quite enjoyable.
On the top of the house there are also a assortment of venting sky-lights, that can be opened when weather permits to provide natural circulation of the air. They also bring an abundance of sunshine into the home. Each sky-light also has a damper that closes off the sky-light; just in case you are not in the sunshine mood.
The Rittenhouse self-sufficient home also has many features not listed here, such as trombone walls, active solar arrays for the hot-tub, swimming pool, and sauna. A parabolic boiler with electrical generator also sits near then home. A hydraulic elevator services all five floors. A hidden underground automatic parking garage is also near the home. Fully integrated automated lighting and entertainment areas are also found throughout the home. The rotating kitchen and variable room zoom. Separate maid and gardener quarters. Any power left over can be sold back to the power company. That is why this home is more than an investment, it's a living. Thank you for visiting the Rittenhouse self-sufficient home. Remember it's more than just a smart home; it's a Rittenhouse self-sufficient home.