Posted 2 years ago on Nov. 21, 2011, 4:55 p.m. EST by hyarborough
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
This is a harder issue to address, but still doable if you have property and a job. If you go back far enough, houses were designed for the climate. People didn't have air conditioning. However, w/ some work and some amount of money it's possible to modify these clone houses that were were sold on. To start, buy what you can afford. Obviously housing is no longer a good investment. In most areas it's become hard to sell houses. It may be a good time to buy a house if you can afford it. You can do a few things that help reduce your energy consumption. I have attached spaces that buffer the effects of temperature on the outer walls. A greenhouse and cold frame, which also provide food. Next year I plan on adding homemade solar panels and a trellis on the roof to reduce attic temperatures and reduce the need for cooling.
While the average temperature has increased considerably during the time we've lived here, it's still not quite a sub-tropical climate. However, the cold frame allows me to grow tropicals during the winter for a continuous supply of fresh vegetables. I've been concentrating on perennial tropical and sub-tropical vegetables. Many of which double as medicinal plants. Since they're immediately adjacent to the house, they double as solar collectors and reduce the need for heating. In my climate, most years I don't turn on the heat in the house. During the summer, the plants reduce the heat load by blocking the sun.
During this past summer, our central air went out. After spending a small fortune on repair, and ending up w/ poor performance I opted to buy small window units. My cooling costs were reduced by half. After talking to others who had been in similar situations, I found similar stories. In general cooling costs were reduced by about 50%, plus when you have a unit fail you don't end up having to scramble to do repairs. Small room sized units are relatively inexpensive and my total cooling equaled what I had w/ a central unit. Additionally the cost of replacement is less than a service call to a HVAC tech. Use window fans or open the windows when it's nice outside.
In conjunction w/ friends, we're working on a project using homemade flat panel solar collectors. In our area the average solar insolation is about 3KW for three 4'x8' panels, which supposedly is the energy usage of the average house. The plan is to avoid the expense of storage batteries by using heat more directly, and storing the energy in homemade well insulated water tanks. Of course hot water, and space heating are the easiest to do. I discovered cooking w/ sous vide, which is just the best way to cook meat IMO, and it uses low grade heat at a maximum of 160 degrees F. Additionally, the plan is to provide cooling based on a German adsorption chiller using silica gel. Patent is available online, and the original prototype used modified off the shelf A/C components. Then there's also cold storage that will be provided by an ammonia/calcium chloride based solar icemaker. Google crosley icey ball, and S.T.E.V.E.N. solar icemaker. We're also looking into high powered electricity production by re-purposing off the shelf components. The heat engines we're planning on testing are an automotive turbocharger, a pneumatic air motor, and a reciprocating heat engine based on two pneumatic cylinders. All were purchased at a cost of about $100 each. This is nothing new. MIT has done some nice work using re-purposed components, and you can find videos on the web. All of these devices have the potential to produce about 5HP which should equate to over 3KW.
We can;t depend on the power companys to help, apparently. Chena hot springs installed a geothermal system based on r134a w/ an estimated cost of $.06/kwh. This includes maintenance, and the price is expected to go down once the loan is paid off. This was a community effort. Solar w/ storage substitutes nicely for geothermal.
The idea is to do this in a fashion the average handy man can handle. If/when successful we plan to give the information away.