Avoiding air conditioning?

Discussion in 'General Homesteading & Building' started by Tex, Nov 4, 2008.

  1. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

    We have hot Summers and mild Winters in my part of Texas. I plan to build super insulated and/or earth bermed. In order to provide enough electricity, I need to find a way around conventional air conditioning. It is too humid here for evaporative coolers. What are my options?

    I will have large overhangs and clerestory windows for natural cooling when possible. I've considered digging a long trench and putting a duct in it to cool outside air(or recirculated air) before it reaches the house. I friend of mine set up a coil in the bottom of his stock tank for a heat exchanger. I'm still 10 years from building, since I don't want to drag my kids out of their schools. This house will be built for my retirement.(at least life after kids move out)
  2. ke4sky

    ke4sky ke4sky

    Build underground

    Excavate and build most of your living space below grade and have your garage and barn above it. The house should be cool in the summer and easy to heat in the winter. A friend in SD lives in a converted former missle silo and has space for an indoor shooting range and to work on his farm equipment indoors when the cold winds blow. Good protection from tornadoes too. Presuming here that in your part of TX shallow water table would not be a problem...

    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008

  3. threadfather

    threadfather Guest

    How does one end up living in a former missile silo?
  4. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

  5. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

    I like the missile silo homes. I don't want anything quite so big though.

    My dad frames custom homes. In 1985, he framed the inside of an underground home. It was earth bermed, with only one wall exposed. The roof was two feet thick concrete with an opening for a clerestory window for passive cooling. The only structure visible from the street looked like an 8x12 storage building that housed the clerestory windows. It was about 2000 s.f. and cost about $130k to build in 1980s $.

    The original owner sold the place to somebody who worked where I did about 10 years ago. I'm thinking I should look them up and ask them some questions.

    I'm probably looking at building at least partially underground. I will keep that in mind when I start looking for land. I'm hoping to find some land that has no utilities ran to it. It should keep the price down when buying the land. I don't know if I want my solar panels visible from the street or not. I'll have to take that into consideration, as well as water table, wind data, and tree shading and wind blockage. I'm hoping to have the land mostly paid for before I sell my current home.
  6. Big B

    Big B Well-Known Member

    if you want a berm house, it is best built on a sloped piece of land, this land is cheaper than flat land and will save you money.......:D
  7. dunappy

    dunappy Well-Known Member

    Don't forget shade trees. Use alot of decidious trees on the South and west side so that in the summer they will shade out the sun and in the winter will allow for passive solar heating. Use anything that will work on the North and east sides.

    And a green roof and a roof vent.

    Last edited: Nov 14, 2008
  8. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    Earth Shelter, great way to do things!

    Passive Solar with 'Green' cover.
    You know, those trellis looking things over the patios and porches that vines and stuff grow on.

    Passive Solar with THERMAL MASS.
    South West, Dry conditions, Hot days, chilly nights,
    Thick, Solid, windowless walls facing the South & West.
    Thick walls of masonry or earth pack absorb the heat all day, keeping it out of the house,
    Then they release the heat into the home all night.

    Passive Solar with Shading,
    South East, Damp conditions, lots of humidity,
    Well insulated walls facing the South and West.
    Windows high up used as vents in the daytime.
    Porches extending far enough out to shade the walls of the home in the summer, but short enough to let the sun warm the walls in the winter when the sun is lower in the sky.

    Insulation is the fastest 100% payback you can do!

    For DRY climates, consider Cooling Towers.
    Water sprayed into a 'Tower' to humidify the air and therefor drop it's temprature so it 'Falls' into the home.
    Sort of a 'Poor Mans' air conditioning.
    Large buildings in the south west use this a lot with water recovery pan at the bottom, and solar cells to run the pumps.
    Turns it's self on in the morning, turns it's self off at dark.

    Bury as much tubing as you can, as deep as you can!
    This makes 'Heating/Cooling' in moderation VERY cheap.
  9. BobS

    BobS Member

    Your options are faily open:

    Robur propane and/or natural gas HVAC Robur Natural Gas Residnetial Air Conditioning Technology (one of the mfgrs of this type of equipment)

    Heat pump heating systems and cooling systems - Robur Robur's website for HVAC

    WaterFurnace - Smarter from the Ground Up™ Mfgr website of geothermal systems - WaterFurnace, Inc

    There are others in addition. Look into the home design (Arabic wind towers, for example Windcatcher - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )

    Best regards,

  10. Dr. Prepared

    Dr. Prepared Guest

    Shade from trees is a great natural way to stay cool! Plant some trees out there!
  11. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

    Dr. Prepared - I will use as much shade as possible without interfering with PV or wind electric production.
    We had an evaporative cooler when we lived in New Mexico, and our highest electric bill was $35 in 1993.

    BobS - I like the wind catcher idea, but a true windcatcher only is effective in dry climates. What do you guys think of a variation of the wind catcher, where air is forced through ductwork in the ground and out of the top of the house?

    Or a system that can be switched to a closed system, where air goes from the house, through an underground duct and back into the other end of the house? A small air conditioner/heater can then fine tune the temperature and humidity once it is circulated through the ground for rough cooling. Here's a crude picture to explain it better.

    I'm trying to avoid using water because pumping water uses a lot of energy. Blowing air is necessary anyway, so why not pre condition it by using the ground's constant temperature?

    Am I missing something?
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2008
  12. northernontario

    northernontario Well-Known Member

    Yes, that could work, but to ensure that you actually transfer heat to/from the ground into the air, you need to run a decent amount of pipe (copper, aluminium). Then there is the problem of condensate forming in the pipe, you may need some sort of drain. And the heat transfer to/from the air will be much less efficient than to a water-based geothermal system.

    A critical part of keeping your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter is the design... limit the number/size of north/east/west facing windows. More south facing windows to bring in heat in the winter (low-lying sun), but an appropriate overhang on the roof to prevent too much sun coming in during the summer.

    Well insulated walls and attic, a large mass to store heat/cool temps inside the house (concrete floor, inner adobe wall), windows high up and low down to circulate the air at night when temps are cool. heat rises... open windows up high and down low at night... cool air is drawn into the house and warm air leaves. You can even include a mount for a fan in the upper window... forcing the hot air out helps draw in cool air.

    A well designed house, with money invested in insulation, good windows, and a proper layout for keeping summer heat out... will drasticly reduce or eliminate a/c and heating costs.
  13. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

    I was surfing the web and found "my idea" for cooling a house. It's called "earth tube cooling". They use a bunch of small PVC pipes to cool the air. They leave nylon ropes in the tubes to drag bleach soaked rags through the pipes periodically to clean them. You can put fans in the pipes or put a big fan at the manifold to force air through them. It's an unproven cooling method, but I think it would work.

    Another idea is to install a concrete tunnel from one end of the house to the other. An air handler will pull air up from one end and distribute air through the house. The other end will have an opening with a ladder. The tunnel could double as a storage room and could be hidden and used as a "safe room".

    The Monolithic Dome Institute has a process for building a tunnel that is much like their dome home building process. It can be sprayed in place and will have a flat floor and be at least 6 feet tall. It can be covered with dirt and the house's slab can be poured over it, leaving access openings at each end of the tunnel.
  14. Rancher

    Rancher Active Member

  15. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

    I like the solar chimney idea, but I think that pulling in outside air will lead to humidity and mold problems. That would have worked great when I lived in New Mexico. Earth tubes can be a closed system which will not add any moisture to the house. I think I won't be happy unless I can switch my air from "fresh" to "recirculate" like a car. Maybe I can do an Earth Tube/Solar Chimney Hybrid system.