Monday, July 2

20 Degrees Fahrenheit

First, apologies for the unintentional vacation. I got a bit overwhelmed.

100-degree days are now here on the western edge of the prairie. The house continues to feel cool as long as it gets a chance to cool off overnight (fans) and we get it closed up by 7:30 a.m. or so. I was curious about what the difference actually is and so got a cheap thermometer last week. It turns out that my house can sustain a 20-degree difference from the outside. Which can mean that on a 95 degree day, it can actually be a bit nippy inside. But I'm not complaining. ;-)

The curious thing is that I'm also getting the opportunity to experience my HVAC-controlled building without the HVAC. (As my granddad used to say, the more complex it is, the more there is to break.) This building can't hold a cool temperature. I am sitting with the overhead lights off with one flourescent bulb on over my sholder and ambient light from north-facing windows. My computer is a laptop and my screen is an LCD. There are two other people in my suite today. Half an hour ago, the AC quit, but the fan is still running. We have gained more than 10 degrees in those 30 min and I'm guessing we're now in the mid 80's. Which makes my office, which has used HVAC most of today, hotter than my house which was air-cooled last night and had the windows and drapes closed about 7 am this morning.

This says a couple of things to me. First, we are using a lot of machinery that creates heat in the HVAC system and trying to cover it with a layer of cooling. Second, this building wasn't built to hold a 20 degree difference. Which makes very little sense. We spend a third of our lives at work, why wouldn't we make the buildings that happens in more efficient rather than less efficient than homes?

A couple of years ago, I took a day like today off of work and visited the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Visitor Center in Golden, Colorado. The Visitor Center is in an office building built for our conditions. And without AC, it was pleasantly cool there. To read more, click here: NREL Building Research.

1 comment:

Steve Hunnicutt said...

I live in an efficiency apartment in Baltimore, MD, and I haven't used my window AC unit at all so far this year, despite some days when the temperature went up to ninety degrees.

I too try to control the temperature by closing windows and shades before leaving in the morning and I've purchased a fan to keep me cool. Running it on the lowest setting has been enough to keep me comfortable so far.

I have an advantage in that the windows in my apartment face the east, so I don't get direct sunlight in the afternoons, when it is hottest.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.