You Don't Have to Live Off-Grid to Improve Your Sustainability

passive solar Apr 16, 2019
 

There are many ways we can all move toward more sustainable and regenerative practices. 

We recently visited a friend who shared with us how he created his passive solar home in 1981! He has lived and raised his family there comfortably for over 38 years. 

To the untrained eye, this home looks like many typical homes, but as soon as we drove up, I noticed the orientation of the house and the windows running along the south-facing wall and suspected that this was a passive solar project. Over morning coffee with our friend, we had a chance to discuss this delightfully well-designed home. 

He shared with us that he chose to live on the grid, but he selected this particular property because of its south-facing slope and the passive solar potential. He drilled a well and installed a septic system, but he heats and cools without a mechanical system. He calculates that the sun provides at least 75% of his heating and he makes up the balance with a backup woodburning stove. Like us, he feeds his woodstove with wood needing cleared from his property. 

The original home was 1500 square feet, and he was able to construct much it himself. He studied passive solar design and also consulted an architect who was well versed in the passive techniques of that era.

Keeping the house small and using his skills and labor allowed him to reduce his construction costs. As his family grew, they added master bedrooms at each end, enabling three generations to now live in this timeless home. 

I delighted in hearing about all of the ingenious techniques he incorporated into this house. He nestled the home partially into the hillside. The south-facing wall not only includes windows, but it also uses thick concrete waist-high walls, known as Trombe walls to store heat. A light-filled sunroom has center stage between the kitchen/dining area and the bedrooms, creating one more method of storing heat in a sunroom and then distributing it to the rest of the house by just opening the door. 

Much of the thermal mass in this house is concrete, including the floor slab. But, gorgeous Saltillo floor tiles create a luxurious space. 

Because the comfort and lifestyle of this family was the driving force behind its design, most visitors would never know that this family has never had to pay a heating or cooling bill in nearly 40 years!

How much have most of us spent, or will spend, on heating and cooling bills over 40 years? 

What better use could you think of for that money? 

How many fossil fuels and greenhouse gases could we save if we all incorporated passive heating and cooling? 

Please scroll down and leave me a comment. Answer or comment on any one of the questions above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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