Saturday, January 31, 2015

Homes on Stilts

Here's another Dwell slideshow, this time of homes on stilts instead of more traditional foundations.

I always thought of "stilt homes" as being more coastal, as pictured here. Putting the house up high protects against tides and storms.

Our own house is on concrete piers, not high enough to call stilts in my book. Willie and I put them onto the rock over a July weekend in 2007. The house went on top of those a month later.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Deck Lights

I've posted a few times in the past about installing embedded LED lights into our deck. They are very slick-looking, and I recommend them highly. This night shot shows them off pretty well.

I bought them from Aurora Deck Lighting in Wisconsin. Besides their fantastic customer service, the best  thing about their light kits is that they're dual-voltage. I can buy in the US and use it in Texas or Sweden.

I did have one snag, though. After just 18 months, the transformer blew out. They promptly sent me a new one and all was well again. Then, during our recent stay in October, the other part of the system, the remote on/off switch, failed on me.

I was promptly sent a new part, and I'll install it in the spring. One nice thing is that the new model remote can also dim the lights, instead of simply on/off. I love my light dimmers!

In summary, I love the lights, and I'm getting great service from the Aurora light people. The only snag is that both parts of the system have failed on me within two years. I know I've installed them properly, and the company is based in Wisconsin, which is at least as cold as Aspö. That leaves the 220/110 volt issue as a cause of the failures. Of course, maybe I've just been unlucky, and there isn't any underlying cause to be found. We'll see next year!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Just received a great photo...

Taken by Ronnie earlier today, and alerted to me by Margaret, here's the godfather of our little house, Janne himself!

Although it's sunny and warm here in Texas right now, both Sooz and I had the same reaction: we wish we were there with him.

UPDATE: Annika and Olle often send us photos, too. I've updated my page of their photos.

Where to place a luftpump?

I posted a while back in September about adding a Värmepump to our house for heating (and cooling). Both Olle and Peter read my post and wanted to talk to me about it when I was over in October.

They both have a lot of experience with these units; in fact, Olle used to work for a company that sold them. They told me the placement of a heat pump was very important. I had intended to put it on the kitchen wall, as my little sketch shows:

The problem with installing it here is that airflow (as indicated by my red arrows) can only reach the central area. I can't direct air into the bathroom or either bedroom, so only part of the house benefits directly.

Peter said the idea setup would be to put it in the center of the house:

Although it would be most efficient for air circulation, it's not possible, as that wall of the house is all glass, so there's no place to mount the fan unit.

The third option would be to mount it on the opposite wall:

That gets air most everywhere, except, perhaps, the guest bedroom. However, one big drawback of doing this is what happens outside. That wall is the front of the house. I'd have to attach a decent- sized pipe along the front of the house down through the deck to the fan unit below. That would be unsightly, at best. Also, having the fan unit beneath the house at the front makes it visible from our new deck.

I'd have none of these problems with my original installation idea. The back of the house is not visible or trafficked. The fan unit could be installed safely and quietly out of the way. We would lose some of the whole-house efficiency of a front-wall installation, but it would look a lot cleaner.

The advice from Olle and Peter is excellent, but I wonder if I really need to worry about heating the whole house. We can heat our bedroom pretty easily with a small radiator, a nice comforter, and perhaps a bit of cuddling.

I will give this a bit more thought on these winter days. It is very good to have valuable input from my neighbors!

Monday, January 19, 2015

An update from the CES

I blogged exactly a year ago about a hand-held thermal imaging accessory for the iPhone.

This year at the Consumer Electronics Show, that handy little gadget has been updated. It also has a low-cost competitor.

It would be fun to play with for moose-spotting in the dark, never mind the value of finding leaky spots in the house.

Just one year of development has made a huge difference in these gadgets. I find that fascinating.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A gorgeous mid-century Stuga

The gorgeous Marcia sends along a mouth-watering real estate listing, in the town of Lerum, overlooking a lake about 20km east of Gothenburg.

It's an "American-inspired" mid-50's century building designed by Bruno Mathsson. It is filled with lots of mid-century design touches. My favorite is the Höganäs ceramic tiles on the floors with underfloor heating throughout the house. It's also photographed beautifully.

The cost is 4.5 million kronor, or about $560,000 at today's exchange rates. This makes it about twice the size and perhaps triple the value of our own little stuga.

As the listing says: "A wonderful house with an amazing architecture!" Indeed.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Newer Transportation Systems

I'd posted last spring about big changes underway for the public transportation system we use to get out to Aspö.

We used to be able to buy a paper strip for use on the buses and subways. That was replaced last year with an Access card, much like the Oyster card in London, or, really, contactless transit cards in most every major city these days.

One owns the card and then simply stores money on the card, which is deducted on each journey. (A snag for us as non-Swedes is that we can't do the refilling of money online, we have to do it in person at a ticket office. But I digress).

The boat part of our journey has been through a Waxholmbolaget stored-value card. The benefit of that card is we have received a 25% discount. By paying 750 kroner, the card's been filled with 1000kr worth of seafaring value. Sweet!

There's been confusion about when and if the boats will start using the access card. I was told in October at our last visit that the Waxholms card would be used for the summer of 2015 as there were still issues being worked out.

That's changing, though. The Skärgården newspaper reports (English here) that the Waxholms card will be phased out by Easter. However, the good news is that my leftover value on my old card can be transferred over. Even better, the prepay discount remains!

For now, the funds for boat and bus/train journeys are separate on the card. However, I can foresee the day when a Stavsnäs-Aspö trip will be one ticket, and one fare, which should make things simpler and perhaps cheaper as well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Here's a spiffy 10 square meter house from our friends in the Great White North, the Bunkie. It's designed to be put most anywhere without a building permit.

Like any good prefabricated home, it is built to high tolerances in the factory, and screws together quickly onsite. They are pricey but they are also high-spec.

I like its design; it seems exactly what the the 5-year old child of a modern architect might draw!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Electric Boats

Let's start the new year with something new: the B/F Sjövägen.

What's so new about it, one might ask? It looks like a standard archipelago ferry, perhaps with a fresh coat of paint.

The first clue is in the designator "B/F". Usually ships plying Swedish waters are "M/S" for a motor ship or "S/S" for the old-fashioned steamships.

In this case, the "B/F" refers to a battery-powered vessel. Yes, that's right, the Sjövägen is an electric boat! I read about it in the local Skärgården newspaper. The initial feedback is positive; like an electric car, it is quiet, and compared to a diesel engine, the ride is far smoother, and with none of the stinky fumes.

Right now, the Sjövägen's batteries can hold about five hours of charge. This will be its first winter on the ice. So for now, it will take only shorter, more inland trips. But the potential for such a vessel is huge, and I wouldn't be surprised to see many more in the upcoming years.

As an aside, it's not just boats that are joining electric cars in the mainstream. Airbus is demonstrating an electric plane which promises to operate much more quietly and environmentally than a current jet engine. With much of Sweden's electricity coming from renewable resources, electric vehicles are a great way to reduce fossil fuel emissions!