Taking the best from many energy-smart systems, and combining them into my ideal
So.. lets get started with some of my basic no-brainer design decisions:
Goal 1: Single level living
I don't see any real reason for constructing
a multi-level home. None of the reasons anyone has ever given me for
building a multi-level home has ever made any real sense. They are awkward
to live in, wasteful of interior space, and hard to heat and cool. On a
small building lot, they do permit you to have more floor-space, but if I can't fit my ideal home on a 1 acre lot, then
someone please shoot me. My home will be single level, which will have the
immediate benefit of being wheelchair-accessible for my programming buddy Ken,
and maybe for me in my old age :).
Goal 2: Keep the living space down at a reasonable
I don't need a 4000 sq ft.
(375 sq m) home. Sure, I
like plenty of space, but Lisa and I don't need extra rooms with names like
"The Great Room" and the "Formal dining room" or "Bedrooms 3,4, and
5". We have very specific needs, so I'll be designing for them, and not for
future "Resale Value". Like Lisa says, "The bigger the
house is.. the more there is to clean.". We'll both still need home
office spaces, but they'll be designed specifically for that purpose. We also do want
some of the standard luxury items like whirlpool tub, pantry, walk in wardrobes and
fireplace (no, not a walk-in fireplace), but
these all have a real purpose for us, and don't require a ton of extra floor
space. I think 2000 sq ft is a good target for livable space. Check
out our Room Guide page for individual room
Goal 3: A moderate sized garage
With an average of 80
inches (2 m) of snow per year,
we will definitely need covered parking in the form of a garage, but I'm still
not sure we need a 2-car garage. Maybe 1 1/2. We'll need enough
extra space for the Snow blower and maybe the Snowmobile :)
Goal 4: Use the earth and the sun to advantage
I want to use a south facing hillside to build the ideal in-ground passive-solar
heated home. Not a greenhouse, and not an earth covered home, but a
mixture of both. The house will basically run East-West with the North wall
fully earth covered, and the South wall fully exposed. The actual
construction will be very similar to a walk-out basement home, but without the
other floors. An open space design with a series of skylights will be used
to provide lighting to the rear of the home.
The floor slab and walls will be externally well-insulated from the
earth. It is not the intention to keep the house at earth temperate.
However, by keeping the temperate differential across the insulation low (house:earth
rather than house:air), heat loss is minimized.
A long veranda on the south side, with a full overhanging eave will minimize
summer heating while still permitting good winter heating. Low-e, high
gain windows will be used for this purpose.
Goal 5: Use water filled tubing embedded in the
floor to provide radiant heating and cooling
Although radiant heating is common, radiant cooling is not. However, the
fact that a typical basement provides a cool place in a hot house is proof
enough to me that radiant cooling works. The major concern seems to be
that an excessively cool floor in a hot humid environment will cause
condensation and ultimately mold and mildew problems. My solution is to
provide an appropriate dehumidification system to remove any excess moisture
from the air. The key reason to go with both radiant heating and cooling
is that the same distribution system can be used for both. This eliminates
all the typical ducts and fans required for a forced air system.
Goal 5: Use Geo-Thermal exchange for heating and
Either a vertical or horizontal geo-thermal exchange field will be used to
permit Heat-Pump heating and cooling. A single indoor heat-pump unit can be used
to supply hot water for radiant heat and domestic hot water (at two different
temperatures). Since the ground loop will normally supply water at a source
temperature of 45-55 Degrees F, it should be possible to also use this primary loop to
feed the in-floor tubing for passive radiant cooling (just as if the floor was
in contact with the cool earth). If this mode of cooling is possible, the
only power demand is the pump to cycle the water.
Goal 6: Use indoor fountains to control humidity
Just as a fountain can be used to increase humidity in a dry environment, a
fountain circulating chilled water can extract moisture from warmer humid air. I
hope to be able to utilize one or more cascading rock wall fountains
to control humidity. These fountains will be placed in a green setting
which will have the additional benefit of improving the air quality and making
the house feel more natural. In summer the rock wall can be chilled using
the same ground water circuit used to cool the floor. If need be, a
small marine air conditioning unit can be used to super chill the fountains, once
again using the ground water loop to dissipate waste heat.
Goal 7: Also feed the radiant heat circuit from a
Another potential heat source for the radiant floor loop is a
fireplace. A copper loop built into the structure of the fireplace (even
around the chimney) could extract additional heat that might otherwise be
wasted. This heat would then be distributed to the rest of the house and
stored in the floor slab. This method of storing heat generated by the
fireplace would provide a more stable home temperate for a longer period.
© 2000-2015, Phil and Lisa's relaxed lifestyle home.
An exercise in Energy Smart, Not So Big living.
www.OurCoolHouse.com - Ideas@OurCoolHouse.com
This site is all about building a cool, energy efficient house,
that makes maximum use of earth sheltered design, passive solar heating and cooling,
geothermal exchange energy management, and right sizing of the house for it's designated use.
The home's placement is on a south-facing hillside in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland.
This site describes the design process, the technologies used and the expected results.
We also have a comprehensive Links Page for anyone who is also interested in designing a