Sunday, July 27, 2008

Improvised shade for energy conservation

Improvised Shade
I had another one of those aha!! moments that is almost embarrasing because it was so long coming. As I've written recently I'm not using air conditioning as a part of my effort to reduce my personal impact on the climate. I'm also living in a cabin which is not completely finished on the inside. The ceiling is finished and well insulated with a ceiling fan installed. I've still got two walls that need the electrical wiring finished, insulation on two walls still to be installed and then pine bead board for all of the inside walls.

Much of my cabin is shaded at various times of day but it does get hit with a good bit of direct sun. About half of the east facing side gets full sun from about 9am to noon. I made it a point to insulate about half of this wall a few weeks back but a good bit of heat still makes it through. I would have done the whole wall but I have a good bit of temporary shelving nailed up to the other half and it is fully stocked with food so I stopped at the half way point.

Three weeks ago Greg brought down a truck load of used 2x4, 2x6, and 2x8 wood to be re-used for a variety of future projects. We stacked it into a neat pile where it has been sitting ever since. Meanwhile I've been working, observing and thinking about the design elements of the site and future projects. I decided very early on that I'd be putting a series of eight or so raised rain collection barrels along the back/east side of the cabin and that I'd put a lattice or similar structure on it for some sort of perennial fruit vine or an annual bean/squash vine to provide food and shade. I may also plant a couple fruit trees back there. But those projects won't be completed until early spring of next year.

Now, for that aha! moment. It's hot and humid outside. I'm hot. My dog is hot. My unfinished walls are getting direct sunlight and heating up outside and inside. Why not lean all those neatly stacked boards up against the east side of my cabin? So simple and obvious!! In ten minutes I've provided a solid wall of deep shade that should easily give me another hour or two of inside coolness. I'll be doing the same thing along the south side of the cabin which gets direct sun from about 3pm to 5pm.

Greg will be back down around the third weekend of August and we'll get the inside walls finished off but I'll be leaving those boards up until they no longer get the direct sun or until outside temperatures cool down, probably the middle of September.

It always amazes me how many people do not shade their houses with trees, bushes or vines. I suppose that the combination of cheap energy, air conditioning and fairly well insulated homes combined make it easy for folks to ignore or not realize just how much direct sunlight on exterior walls can heat a home. As energy becomes increasingly expensive and eventually as shortages occur I expect these details will become more important to more people.


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