Saturday, May 31, 2014

Norcal Veteran Coder Built his Dream Off-Grid House

Loren Amelang once helped code for Silicon Valley companies, but he'd always been sensitive to environment so when his employer installed fluorescent lighting and wouldn't let employees use their own lights, he decided to move to the country and craft his off-grid dream home.

Today he lives with "clean air, a great view, free hot water and free power, and a decent chunk of free heat". The entire south side of his home is covered in solar capture devices: 1600 watts of photovoltaic power, solar hot water panels, a sunroom/greenhouse and a solar hot air collector. The sunroom/greenhouse provides most of the free heat via the 'solar flue' that moderates it in warmer weather or circulates some of it into the house when needed, and the concrete walls that stabilize the temperature over time.

Putting his technical skills to use (he's a pioneer in C++ programming), Amelang wrote over 10,000 lines of code so that his home's water and electric systems could be operated remotely, by even just an iPhone.

Since he built most of the home himself (the person he hired to do it decades ago, spent all the money and built half the house), Amelang has made it very custom. He avoided using aluminum and plastic (except for the insulation on the wiring) and he wired it for pure DC lighting (which makes sense with solar, but Amelang also likes how "peaceful" DC lighting feels).

Building on his own terms means that Amelang created a home that doesn't look or feel like anyone else's, but it works well and makes sense. For instance, he designed an audio system where you can "walk around in the sound space and feel where you are" and a central locking system for all exterior doors so that when he leaves the house he doesn't have to lock 12 different doors, but just turns one key and they all lock.

* This is a follow-up story with Loren. The original stories from 2011: -- C++ programming pioneer hacks off-grid, DIY, smart home
-- 96-square-foot tiny home handbuilt inside century-old barn

** Note: Loren has always seen the world differently, in a literal sense and he is hoping to hear from anyone who might experience the same phenomenon. He explains they are "issues are with brain-level perception and my expectations of how the visual world should work". He writes about it more in detail in his blog post "Consumed by the light":

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