It's just before 5 in the morning, the early freight train is busy waking everybody up as it passes through town, it's 65ºF outside, probably 74ºF inside. Today it is forecast to go to 90ºF, yesterday it got up to about 86ºF. For a couple of recent arrivals from England, that's hot. We went out and about yesterday so the house stayed closed up most of the day. I was pleased and a little surprised when we got home about 3pm, the hottest part of the day to find the house nice and cool, relative to outdoors at least.
One of the first things we did when we got here was to re-instate all the little techniques we developed to beat the heat when we were here before, that was during 2 months of summer heat. We hang foil wrapped bubble sheet in the windows that get direct sun and close the blinds, we keep the windows upstairs on the north side of the house open at all times, we leave the northfacing windows downstairs cracked for most of the day, only closing them up if we are going to be away or during the hottest part of the day. Our window strategy generally is to open windows only where the air is cool, so on the west side in the morning, east side in the late afternoon (probably not till evening today) and most of the time on the north side. This morning I've closed all but one window upstairs and placed a fan blowing out in that window, I've also opened up all the windows downstairs. I'm hoping this will draw cool air through the house while it is at it's coolest. I've turned on the ceiling fans on low to circulate the warm air out of corners and hopefully out of the house.
The other key element to our strategy is to keep the sun off the partial wrap around porch on the est and south side of the house by hanging blinds at the outside edge of the porch. This is most important as it is critical to keep the sun off and out of the house as much as possible. The picture shows the east facing blinds doing the job on a recent warm morning. Also notice the shrubs on the south side (facing the camera). We've used our clothes washing grey water to help them put on some leaf. They were shorter and just looked like dead sticks 3 weeks ago. They are helping by shading the brickwork behind them as well as the ground underneath.
I'll turn off the fans and close the west window upstairs, open the north windows, and lower the blinds when the sun gets over the trees. We'll be out and about today as well and I'm hoping we'll find the house nice and cool when we return.
Beyond these measures we are getting estimates for a white metal roof. This should significantly reduce the amount of heat the roof absorbs as it is currently black asphalt. It will also allow us to use the rainwater off the roof in the garden, something I won't do currently. This is all common sense stuff but generally falls under the category of passive solar design. It is simple, inexpensive (aside from the roof which never should have been asphalt in the first place), and achievable to some degree in most homes.
We have other plans to improve the solar performance of the house but I'll cover those as we embark upon them. Our hope is to never turn on our AC again. Wish us luck!
Passive Solar Energy Book
What have you done today to lower your impact?
We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.
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