You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘4 – March 2009 Spring Equinox’ category.

3-20-09-se-1The Spring Equinox has arrived, and it’s time to start spending more time outdoors than in. My favorite outdoor space this time of year is the east-facing balcony where the tops of the dogwood blooms are nearby. Daily the same east balcony and porch below allow for viewing of sunrises and monthly the rising of the full moon.

Even though it has been occurring for billions of years, I am fascinated every equinox at the simple fact that everywhere on earth the sun rises due east and sets due west, and that we all have the same 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. I know my parents encouraged me to look to the heavens for thinking about the endless unknowns, but I sure wish I could remember the names of my science teachers to thank them too for teaching me to pay attention to things other than those in our immediate vicinity, and of course, especially to my favorite – the sun.

From now until June 21, the Summer Solstice, the sun will continue to climb higher in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere. (Well actually North America will continue to tilt closer to the sun.) While less solar energy will be entering through the south-facing windows as summer approaches, more solar energy will be hitting the roof and other predominantly horizontal surfaces. To see just how much energy, see the related story in this newsletter

Remember Sun Plans?
http://www.sunplans.com/html/home_page_2.php3

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3-20-09-se-2While we have no coupon to clip, we would like to say thank you to those who have purchased a Study Plan or Construction Review Set from us at any time even if it was 5 years ago! Based on the emails that we have been receiving, we know that many of you are on the verge of purchasing. We encourage you to start the planning process earlier rather than later when construction prices will begin to rise again.

Through the end of March 2009, when you place an order for Blueprints, Erasable Vellums, or CAD files, we will credit your order after it is placed through our shopping cart at DOUBLE the value of the highest priced Study Plan or Construction Review Set (CRS) that you have purchased from us of any plan. Since our highest priced CRS is $320 that would be a savings of $640, but even our lowest priced Study Plan at $60 would carry a $120 credit.

And the plan you purchase does not have to be the same as the Study Plan or Construction Review Set. Although the purchase price of a Construction Review Set will still continue to be deductible in the future from the price of the full construction orders (Blueprints, Erasable Vellums, and CAD Files), only through the end of March 2009 will the Study Plan price be credited.

Getting ready to have us make Custom Changes for you in the next few months? This offer would also apply to you since one part of the our invoice includes the blueprints/use of the base set of plans and of course includes 6 sets of blueprints after the changes are completed. (In addition to the savings of purchasing the higher priced CAD files for changes to be made by others, you now have an additional incentive for Sun Plans to make the Custom Changes.) We would like to mention though, that for the first time this past year when a client had endless changes to a pre-designed plan, we had our fees for one house match those of a custom design which averages 2-3% of construction cost. Our clients Charlotte and Rob did not complain since they certainly received a custom home, but I do like to mention that while often our Custom Changes are simple and quick, at other times they are not when the client is full of many ideas!

Click here for a free PDF CRS of Brighton Bungalow.
http://www.sunplans.com/misc/Brighton_Bungalow_CRS_ALL.pdf

3-20-09-se-3We thank the Sun Plans Homeowners for their overwhelming response to our recent Customer Service Inquiries. While some have had only a moment to send one or two construction photos, others have sent pages of comments! We use this information to continuously adapt our services and to share some the comments and photos with others.

See below for some selected comments and photos.

We do regularly ask homeowners to share photos, but stop short of begging as we certainly know the value of time which is always short during construction and even several years after. Also, it is common for clients to deny sending photos until they are happy with the look of their home both inside and out with the landscaping matured and the inside woodwork completed. And after all, they did try to save money by doing some of the work themselves, so it can be years before they are finished! (The same reasons are often give when we ask permission for a prospective customer to visit a home and our client’s privacy does take the highest priority.)

Please visit our updated photo page!
http://www.sunplans.com/html/house_photos.php3

We were happy to receive this comment from Lisa about her Heartland home in Missouri.

3-20-09-se-4a“I wanted to let you know how much we like our house. We built Heartland this year and moved in on Christmas day.
As I write this, our thermostat is set on 68, but it is 75 degrees in the house. The high today was 42, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The sun set almost 4 hours ago and now it’s 25 outside. Inside, I’m comfortable in yoga pants and a tank top. I’m barefooted, because the tile floor is still toasty warm from the sun. It doesn’t matter how cold it gets during the day, if the sun is out, the furnace doesn’t come on. On sunny days, it’s always summer in here!
We’re using a zoned geothermal heat pump, and that, combined with the passive solar, make this a very comfortable house. It’s bright and open and sunny and warm. Even on cloudy days it’s quite nice, with the big windows and the serious insulation. This house just feels good.”

3-20-09-se-4bMaria who built the Roseburg Cottage 2 in West Virginia writes,
“The passive solar design is WONDERFUL and we are finding many days during the recent cold snap that our heat did not come on.”

Delton who built the Islander 6 in South Dakota writes,
“Debbie was great to work with and we really like the house, on any sunny day above 0 degrees the house gets to about 73-75 degrees and will hold a 68 degree temp till after midnight. Not bad seeing as how we lose sunlight in the windows by 4 PM”

3-20-09-se-4cDale who built the Equinox 3 in Colorado writes,
“We are thrilled with the design and plans, and we love the house. It is very bright, and the passive solar design works beautifully. In summer 2008 we received the city of Lakewood’s Sustainability Award.”

Have you seen the comment page on the web site?
http://www.sunplans.com/html/client_comments.php3

3-20-09-se-5We are excited to announce the addition of three new plans to our web site: the Dakota Cottage, the French Cowgirl, and Ryan’s Retreat.

Thank you Rod & Charlotte, Conni and Craig, and Bruce, LeeAnn & Ryan for allowing us to create these custom homes for you.  (Congratulations to Bruce and LeeAnn who were married in the house while it was under construction. We assume this meant they were enjoying the building process!)

On our house plan list page, we rate the complexity of each house to build. While this is certainly subjective, as a rule you can increase construction costs about 5-10% from simple to average, and then again 5-10% from average to complex. So while some people still love the more complex plans with atriums and other unique features, in today’s economy we find clients asking more for the simpler to construct plans, or at least looking at the homes with a smaller footprint if they want many unique features also.

The three new plans all come with the “simple” rating of construction.

The 3D image is of the French Cowgirl. We now offer several levels of 3D services for all of our Custom Design as well as Custom Changes. Clients who have trouble visualizing love these services that start as low as $300 for a simple exterior. Over the next few months, look for some new 3D products to be added to our shopping cart.

Visit our house plan list page to see all of our designs.
http://www.sunplans.com/html/list.php3

The Dakota Cottage is north-facing with 1762 s.f. living plus a sunroom studio. With a full basement, its a very economical two story home. Why build up when south-sloping land allows you to build down?!* It’s a much more economical way to gain square footage and the energy consumption will be much less too.

Building down rather than up is the most popular cost-saving strategy that we can recommend.

See more about the Dakota Cottage
http://www.sunplans.com/html/houseDisplay.php3?house=Dakota_Cottage&page=front_elevation

The French Cowgirl was designed for a family who spends more time outdoors than in. This west-facing home with 1176 s.f. on each floor plus a fun viewing tower is one of our most compact homes so far.

Before this custom home, our clients would have had to consider a similar plan of ours with about 200 s.f. more on each floor. That would have cost about $30,000 more to build. Instead they paid us around $8,000 to custom design a home. The goal of our Custom Design service is to make our fees save you money during construction as well as in the long run with lower energy bills.

See more about the French Cowgirl
http://www.sunplans.com/html/houseDisplay.php3?house=French_Cowgirl

Ryan’s Retreat accommodates aging in place and existing wheelchair needs in a home with a creative ramp through a delightful sunroom. With 1800 s.f. on the first floor, a 264 s.f. sunroom, and 563 s.f. upstairs nestled between the attic trusses, this is a lot of home in a simple, craftsman shape.

Although they gave up some passive solar gain by eliminating the second floor south dormer, they are saving enough money with roof simplification to help justify adding the PV panels to the large, unobstructed roof on the south. (But even without a lot of unobstrutive roof area to power an entire house, many clients are placing the PV panels near the ground or on poles where it can be easier to knock off the snow!)

See more about Ryan’s Retreat
http://www.sunplans.com/html/houseDisplay.php3?house=Ryans_Retreat&page=front_elevation

In our last email newsletter we mentioned the fact that we often Work in the Clouds.

Well, we feel it only appropriate to mention that the astronauts at the international space station are now Working 100% in the Sun since the last 2 solar wings have just become operational. In orbit, the panels receive 1.5KWh/square meter – that’s per hour. Down here on the earth’s surface, the middle latitudes still receive roughly about half of that energy or about .75KWh/square meter For an average of 6 hours per day that equals about 4.5KWh per day. Your local active solar consultant (try www.findsolar.com) can help you work out the details for your lifestyle, budget, and local incentives described at www.desireusa.org.

(“Working in the Clouds” is a phrase we recently heard while attending a Google web-based seminar. Since over 90% of our custom design work is done with homeowners that we never meet face-to-face, it seems to adequately describe our email, computer-based services that allow the client to respond to our designs at their convenience. Of course some find that there is also a place for face to face meetings and phone calls. We tailor the process to each client’s design style.)

See how much sun would hit solar panels in your area of the US.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Us_pv_annual_may2004.jpg

Thank YOU for your support of Sun Plans during the years and sending your valuable comments about our services and ideas for improving our web site!

Enjoy Spring and the due east sunrises and sunsets with your family and friends!