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Visitors swarm through First Light house as team gears up for US journey

Visitors swarm through First Light house as team gears up for US journey

20,000 people. That’s how many curious faces passed through the Meridian First Light house in just 18 days when it recently made its public debut in Wellington’s Frank Kitts Park. In their latest blog, the team sum up the public reaction and discuss the numerous tests being conducted on the house as it gets set to be shipped to the US at the end of the month.

We have now finished the public opening period for the Meridian First Light house and we are truly amazed at the response we got. It was a hectic time with the team getting a whole lot of experience taking tours of the house.

After an incredibly busy period we have shut the doors and are now testing the house’s performance before it is shipped off to the US. The house was designed to be incredibly high performing but up until this stage that has all been theoretical. Now we get to really test the theory.

We are putting the house through a number of tests with help from BRANZ. We set temperature and humidity sensors throughout the house both during the public exhibition and after to test the house in a range of states. The first of these tests was to monitor how well the house held its heat during the night. The aim is to compare the interior temperature with the outside temperature throughout the night to determine how much heat is lost through the building envelope to the cold night air. On the first night this was tested by leaving the blinds up and turning off any external heating. Over night the temperature inside the house dropped just 2 degrees, which was a very promising sign for the building performance of the house.

BRANZ. Have also kindly loaned us a rather fancy ($70,000) thermal imaging camera. It works by forming an image using infrared radiation (similar to a common camera) and renders it as visible light. This enables us to pick up the temperature of different surfaces within the home and to pick out weak areas in the thermal envelope of the house.

We found a few small weak points in the house where the modules join together. This means we are now aware of areas where we need to take extra care with when we bring the modules together during assembly in Washington DC.

The team from ProClima, who provided our house with its air tightness system, came in to test the house by carrying out a ‘blower door’ test. The good news is they were very impressed with the results, which is reassuring. 

One of the things we are most excited to test is the hot water drying cupboard that has been developed for the house by Wellington company LEAP. The dryer works by using energy stored in the hot water to dry clothes as quickly as a traditional dryer. Hot water is pumped through a heat exchanger which then heats the air inside the cupboard. Hot air and hot water filled rails work to dry the clothes quickly while a fan extracts humid air from the cupboard. The dryer uses only a small amount of energy to power the fan and the remainder is powered by solar hot water.

When we first turned the dryer on it heated up incredibly quickly—a very good sign. Some of the team members plan to bring in their dirty clothes that have been neglected in the past few busy weeks to aid the testing process.

While tests continue we have also begun disassembly the house, starting with the landscape. The 40 ft Hamburg Sud containers have arrived down at Frank Kitts Park and will be driven by truck to Tauranga before being shipped on 30 to start the US leg of the journey.