Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shadows and Light

This is not a very good photo of what I am trying to show you but it was the best I could come up with. This is one of 3 small, west-facing windows in my house. Now, you out there that know a little about passive solar design will note that most sources recommend NOT having any west facing windows because of the high solar gain in the summer. Try telling that to my architect. And I did have to agree with him on this. It would have just looked funny to not have any windows on that end of the house so I made a few concessions and the windows are helpful for heat gain in the winter since I am a little lean on south facing windows. They are much smaller than the other windows and I recently discovered an interesting product that I thought I would tell ya'll about. You can't really tell in the photo but I have applied a tinted film to these windows. It is basically just like the stuff they tint car windows with. This particular brand claims to reduce heat gain by 65% and UV rays by 95%. I did a little checking around and found out that Lowe's carries a similar product that they claim reduces heat gain by 70%. It is very easy to apply and in the winter you just peel it off the window, roll it back up in the paper backing and store until next summer. It's not terribly expensive either as one roll was $35 but you can use it over and over. You do have to cut it to fit your window but that was not too difficult. I can honestly say it has made the bedroom noticeably cooler. When you look through the window it kinda looks as though you are wearing sunglasses but it has a very clear and clean appearance. Yes, you could just install blinds on the windows but to me, why have windows if you are going to keep them covered always? I know in some areas you need to for privacy but I don't have those issues here. The deer will just have to get an eye full. Plus, my little orchid there can still get good sunlight and I like having such a beautiful flower by the bed. Get a little fung shui going if you know what I mean!

I have always said I do not have a clue as to what I am doing with this house and didn't know if what I am experiencing here is any better than a conventionally built house. I think that the house is more comfortable and easier on the budget but I am probably biased. I do have this evidence though; Allen was talking to a guy that said his power bill for his small house was running around $300/ month right now. Now, I don't know what kind of appliances this guy has or whatever but I do know his house is not much larger than mine and my power bill is averaging about $70/ month so I felt much better. I know some other people who are saying their power bills are $150-$300/ month. I know mine would be much lower if not for that #$#@!&! water heater. I do run, in different cycles, 2 small air-conditioning units, mainly to dehumidify the air. The units cycle on at the hottest part of the day and I rarely run them at night so the house stays about 76 degrees all the time. I have opened my clerestory windows for venting and actually slowed the ceiling fans down. This helps the hot air rise up to the clerestory and be vented out instead of getting stirred back down into the cooler air. Since cool air will not rise, the rooms stay very comfortable. It is to me anyway but I work out in the broiling sun all day, so any shade is cool to me. Some people say, well, why run air at all, you should be used to the heat. Well, constant heat drains your energy and you must find some coolness to be able to sleep well and renew yourself. We construction workers have learned to deal with this and our standard treatment for when we get overheated at work is to come home, take a cool but not cold shower, drink non-caffeinated beverages and go to bed even if it is still daylight. Sleep for a couple of hours, get up and have a light supper and go back to bed.

I have been able to rest some this weekend and have even gotten a little done on the house which I will show you soon. It's not very exciting though. This week was so draining I have not worked on the house lately or even in the garden. Next week does not look good either but I'll tell you about that later.

*Joni Mitchell


Shannon said...

I cannot believe you just posted about that window film! I just this week discovered the same stuff. I don't have the West facing windows yet, but we are planning a bay window on that wall and have been concerned about heat gain. Not having the bay is not an option in my mind because that will be the living room and it faces the pond. Good view trumps frugal energy misering! Oh, and I dislike blinds too. Please be careful working in the heat. I'd hate to lose my super cool neighbor chick to heatstroke!

Robbyn said...

The window film is a great idea. We're playing around with drawing up house plans ourselves, but it's a work in progress. The A/C situation is something we'll have to solve since we're not sure we'll be on the grid, but Florida without any A/C is a very sticky proposition :)

edifice rex said...

Hey Shannon! Yeah, a bay window on that west side is going to give you a lot of heat. I don't know have far along your house is but you can minimize the sun with wide enough overhangs and eaves also. the sun is high enough in the summer to block it by extending your eaves. I did get a little too hot at work the other day but the guys look after me and I was able to sit it out for a while until I cooled down. We try to be very careful about such things.

Hey Robbyn! yeah, the film seems to work well too. I could not imagine Florida with A/C. Ya'll might look into geothermal cooling which is 400% more efficient than traditional HVAC. Could easily be run on a solar system I believe.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

If I were building new today I would use alternative energy sources to get off the electrical grid altogether.

Your mention of geothermal in your comment to Shannon I assume is a water furnace. The investment would be paid back within 10 years.

The city of Toronto just finished a version of this for cooling, not heating, downtown buildings drawing water from the lake. It saves a lot of energy.

edifice rex said...

Hello Philip! Well, I would like to build all exclusively with alternative energy but unfortunately, they are expensive in their initial cost and I don't have those funds. I am adding alternative means as I can afford it though and hope to one day be off the grid. I think it is as important to design your house to just use less of all fuels be it solar or not. The water furnace is one of those things. That is the product I was refering to.