I’m hiring an entry level bookkeeper!

If you live in the Kamloops area and have experience with accounting software, as well as familiarity with the double entry method of bookkeeping, contact me at sandra@darfieldearthship.com  I am going to be hiring an entry level bookkeeper ASAP to do most of the day to day accounts at one of my clients’ place of business in the Valleyview are of Kamloops.  Spread the word, I’ll be interviewing in the coming weeks.

Permits for our Earthship

On a fairly regular basis we are asked something along the lines of …

My husband and I are in love with Earthships…both of us for different reasons.  His being the money and mine being the environment.  That being said we were wondering how hard and how long you waited for permits to build and how hard was it to find electricians and plumbers…etc to work and approve the project?

Permits are definitely a concern if you are going to build under the jurisdiction of a building authority.   When I actually took the time to list all of the permits (see below) it struck me as fairly daunting.  All I can really say is that  we have dealt with each required permit as it occurs;  some permits took additional time, they all cost something upfront and building to the permit specifications will obviously increase some costs.  All of these permits are simply the reality of building in British Columbia today.  To this point we have encountered nothing that has made it impossible to proceed with our project, nor do we expect to.  Your best first step in building is to go in and speak with the inspectors from your local building authority.

The permits and issues that were a reality for us include:

  1. septic field site inspection
  2. HPO
  3. Building Permit
  4. Plumbing Permit
  5. Stove (solid wood burning appliance) Permit
  6. Electrical Permit

Septic Field Site Inspection

If you are building a new home or upgrading an existing home in British Columbia you are required to plan for and install a septic system.  All work on your septic system must be completed by a Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioner.  We were fortunate to have an existing septic system on our site that was suitable under the existing regulations for our proposed home.  No allowances were made for reducing the system size due to the reduced waste flow expected from an earthship.  I am not sure how hard it would be to get approval for a system outside of the regulatory framework.  Although we do not expect our system to be used at all close to capacity, we felt it was easier to comply with existing regulations.

Homeowner Protection Office

As of 2007 all home builders in BC must guarantee their buildings from various defects, and pay into a provincial insurance program against the possibility of their buildings not meeting this guarantee.   From the HPO website:

As of November 19, 2007, individuals wanting to be an owner builder of a new home are required to obtain an Owner Builder Authorization from the HPO and to pay a fee, prior to commencing construction of that new home. These requirements are in effect for all areas of British Columbia, regardless of whether building permits are required or not and are in keeping with amendments to the Homeowner Protection Act and Regulation. Read our information bulletin for Owner Builders.

Building Permit

We obtained a building permit from our local building authority.  In our case our plans were also signed and sealed by an engineer.

Plumbing Permit

In addition to the building permit we must also obtain a plumbing permit detailing the interior plumbing of our building.  This permit is separate from the building permit, and we have not submitted for it yet.  I expect this permit will be pulled sometime this year.

Stove Permit

We built a site-constructed solid fuel heater (a wood stove) and had to get a permit for it.  Any stove installation requires a permit.

Electrical Permit

Any house constructed in BC requires a separate electrical permit, and yes we have one of these too.


Sandra has itemized all of our costs on an on-going basis, and I am certain these costs are itemized in her running tally of our expenses.  I do not remember what all of our costs were, and I hesitate to estimate …

A Fuel Cell Generator for Home Power?

I received an email asking if I know anything about using a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity for your home.  Specifically, the person was curious about a new generator called a BlueGen developed in Autralia.

I should state upfront that I know little about fuel cell technology beyond what I have read in science fiction (of which I have read a lot!), and what I have followed in the daily news.  According to science fiction fuel cell technology will be the power source of the future … by easily converting abundantly available water to hydrogen and oxygen the hero of the book always seems to have unlimited, clean power to accomplish his goals.  According to what I have followed in the daily news fuel cell technology is a very promising method of power generation … if we can work the bugs out of it (and they have been saying this for a long time now).

According to the link above about the BlueGen line of generators, companies may actually be making some progress in making a viable product.  The catch is that these units are not turning water into hydrogen, at least not directly and not cleanly.  The generator uses another fuel (like propane or natural gas) and via the process of fossil fuel reforming generates hydrogen and waste products of heat and carbon dioxide.  In other words, my picture of one of these generators is a lot like the gas powered generator you might use to keep your fridge and freezer running if the electrical grid fails for a period of time.  The hydrogen fuel cell can be viewed as the alternator of the generator, and in this case the alternator is spun via fossil fuel reforming.

The difference is that apparently a hydrogen fuel cell generator is much more efficient than an equivalent gas generator … maybe as much as two times more efficient from what I have read.  This is good … you could get the same power production, generate less green house gas and use less fossil fuel … definitely a step in the right direction!  I gather that is the intended use in Australia; with one of these systems running on your property and grid-tied to the electrical network you will be able to produce power more cheaply than the utility can provide it and sell the excess back to the utility.   I have mixed feelings about grid tied systems despite intending to implement one myself.  We are still relying on a centralized grid for power production with all of its inherent issues; reliability, line losses during distribution, cost and dependence on a remote system.

What is more interesting to me is the ability to use different sources to provide the fuel for the fuel reformation process; a biogas digester for example, or my personal favorite wood gas from a wood gasifier!   In other words, from my reading anyway, the fuel for this generator does not have to be a fossil fuel.  It sounds like a wood gasifier hooked up to a hydrogen fuel cell would be more efficient than using it to power a gas engine to generate electricity.  I am now excited!

Having said all this … I will not be rushing out to get my hands on one of these generators until I see and read about some actual installations!