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The House on the Cliff by GilBartolome Architects, in Granada, Spain is buried into the side of a cliff. It has a concrete roof that is 16 inches thick that “allows for a magnificent mix of insulation and thermal inertia.” It maintains an interior temperature of 19.5°C [67°F] year round without additional heating or cooling.
The construction of the House on the Cliff relies heavily on craftsmanship and local labor. The house was to be built during the worst possible financial crisis on Spain, with 26% of unemployment in our country, and close to 36% unemployment rates in the region where the house was built. In this social context we decided to avoid machine made industrial construction systems and develop an architecture that is based on many hours of labor.
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Great graphic from U.S. Department of Energy on everything you need to know about home heating.
Did you know that heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes? The US Department of Energy provides “Energy Saver” tips and advice on ways consumers can reduce your heating and cooling costs and it all starts with the right contractor!
STEP 1: START WITH THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR
Not all contractors are the same. Some concentrate on kitchens, some on bathrooms. Some concentrate on home energy upgrades — focusing on ways to make your home comfortable, energy efficient and healthy. Look for companies that employ workers who carry the national Home Energy Professional Certifications. A home performance contractor will have a certified auditor either on staff or under contract to evaluate your home.
STEP 2: GET A THOROUGH HOME ENERGY AUDIT
A home performance evaluation, or energy audit, requires specialized equipment and trained individuals — called energy auditors — to operate that equipment. Energy auditors who carry a Home Energy Professional Certification have met the required professional and educational prerequisites and are certified to the highest standard in the industry, proving they are qualified to conduct a home performance evaluation.
The most important piece of equipment an energy auditor operates is called a blower door, which is used to determine where air is leaking out of your home. If you followed the auditor around while the blower door is running, you might be surprised at what you’d find. Air leaking through face plates on switches and outlets, and escaping around doors, windows, pipes, and under sinks … and all of these places add up. Put them all together and you could have a space the size of a bathroom window — maybe even bigger — that’s constantly open. The blower door test is a good way to learn why your house isn’t comfortable.
In addition to the blower door, certified energy auditors use tools — such as gas leak detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, kill-a-watt meters and lead-safe testing kits — to give your home a thorough evaluation.
Be sure to ask if your auditor is certified and what equipment will be used for the evaluation. If your auditor is just going to walk through your house and estimate what work needs to be done, you don’t have an experienced home performance contractor. Ask if you can shadow the auditor during the evaluation — most will welcome the chance to teach you about your home.
STEP 3: ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
While all homes are different and need to be evaluated based on their own unique characteristics, most dwellings can benefit from similar types of improvements. Before your energy audit begins, be sure to ask your home energy upgrade contractor about the following things. Some of the upgrades you could do yourself, like replacing a refrigerator or installing a programmable thermostat, provided you know those are significant sources of energy loss.
1758 All liquid evaporation has a cooling effect. Benjamin “I invented everything” Franklin and Cambridge University professor John Hadley discover that evaporation of alcohol and other volatile liquids, which evaporate faster than water, can cool down an object enough to freeze water.
1820 Inventor Michael Faraday makes the same discovery in England when he compresses and liquifies ammonia.
1830s At the Florida hospital where he works, Dr. John Gorrie builds an ice-making machine that uses compression to make buckets of ice and then blows air over them. He patents the idea in 1851, imagining his invention cooling buildings all over the world. But without any financial backing, his dream melts away.
1881 After an assassin shoots President James Garfield on July 2, naval engineers build a boxy makeshift cooling unit to keep him cool and comfortable. The device is filled with water-soaked cloth and a fan blows hot air overhead and keeps cool air closer to the ground. The good news: This device can lower room temperature by up to 20 F. The bad news: It uses a half-million pounds of ice in two months… and President Garfield still dies.
1902 Willis Carrier invents the Apparatus for Treating Air for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y. The machine blows air over cold coils to control room temperature and humidity, keeping paper from wrinkling and ink aligned. Finding that other factories want to get in on the cooling action, Carrier establishes the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America.
Early space heating seems to have developed along several lines that included hearths and fireplaces, stoves, and underfloor systems. Fixed central hearths date as far back as 2500 B.C. They were excavated in Greece.
Crude fireplace heating was used as early as the 800s A.D., and was widespread in Europe by the 13th century. Castles built at that time had fireplaces that had a short flue to the outside, a crude form of chimney. All of the early fireplaces were constructed entirely of stone, but casting technology improvements led to the introduction of cast iron firebacks designed to protect the stone from direct fire heat.
Louis Savot of France invented the raised grate and designed a circulating fireplace in the early 1600s. Savot used a hollow iron bottom and back in the hearth, through which cold room air entered at the bottom, was warmed, and entered the room through openings above the mantle.
In England, another improvement was to provide combustion air through a duct from the outside. A French priest (actually a Cardinal) wrote the first comprehensive manual on fireplace design, Mechanique du Feu, in 1713. The science of fireplace construction reached its zenith with Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, who published Chimney Fireplaces in 1796.
Like fireplaces, stoves also first appeared in the 800s as crude devices made from clay bricks. Masonry stoves became common in northern Europe by the 1500s. The stoves, called Russian or Swedish stoves, were very large. Later versions were very ornate, with tile coverings.
The earliest metal stoves, appearing after 1400, were made of cast iron hearth firebacks connected together. Later, cast iron sections were designed specifically for stove construction, and Holland and Germany became leading centers for iron stove manufacturing.
- Install a programmable thermostat to lower utility bills and manage your heating and cooling systems efficiently.
- Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle.
- Turn things off when you are not in the room such as lights, TVs, entertainment systems, and your computer and monitor.
- Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use — TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power.
- Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F.
- Take short showers instead of baths and use low-flow showerheads for additional energy savings.
- Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
- Air dry clothes.
- Check to see that windows and doors are closed when heating or cooling your home.
- Drive sensibly; aggressive driving such as speeding, and rapid acceleration and braking, wastes fuel.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR® label on light bulbs, home appliances, electronics, and other products. ENERGY STAR products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Read more from the US Department of Energy.