Archive for the ‘Sustainable Energy’ Category

Designing Air For a Comfortable Home

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Designing Air seems a strange term – yet that is exactly what I am trying to do. The ideal air is constantly the right temperature, the right humidity and free from contaminants. A comfortable air for a home requires a co-ordingated balance between:

  • Thermal Mass
  • Heating and Cooling
  • Ventilation and Condensation Control
  • Insulation

Thermal Mass

Thermal mass is the ability of your homes construction materials, exposed to the sun, to warm and release warmth. Concrete is the best thermal mass, wood the worst. Using concrete walls or floors exposed to sunlight means your house will both overheat less in summer and keep warm during winter, Wood heats up quickly and loses heat quickly – consider it a bit like your Glycemic Index for food. You don’t want the equivalent of sugars that give you a quick energy hit then drain you later. You want high glycemic index foods that are slow to release their energy and release it longer and in a more constant rate. Your house thermal mass works in a similar way.

Heating and Cooling

Heating systems vary significantly between countries. In Northern Hemispheres a central boiler system is most prevalent for heating; whereas these are not used in the Southern Hemisphere, relying more on wood burners, flued gas fires, heat pumps and electric heating.

Cooling systems are either heat pumps or fully ducted air conditioning systems that provide ventilation, condensation control, heating and cooling.

Ventilation And Condensation Control

The popular ceiling cavity ventilation systems rely on having sufficient cavity space to trap air heated by the sun during the day to be cycled through the home at night. Personally, I don’t like the idea of air full of insulation fibres, dust and mold coming in to my home – regardless how good they maintain their filters are. In saying this, filters vary greatly by product and there are some that now offer hospital equivalent filtering.


The building standards generally give the absolute minimum required for floor, wall and ceiling insulation. Studies have shown that increasing the specification to the next product level will signifiantly decrease the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the home – since the installation fee is the same, the savings are far more than the additional product cost.

Over the next week I will be investigating each of these more closely for my project home.

Planning For 5 Year Benefits

Monday, October 25th, 2010

This last week I have been checking out the latest and greatest advances in building technology. I have considered cladding, heating, joinery, internal floor systems, kitchen appliances – you name it, I have looked at it.

As this leaky house repair project is an investment one should never have to make – it is not something that is budgeted for, so there is a strong urge to make it as cheap as possible, with a few touches of luxury. However, cheap can be bad value, in almost any investment.

In considering the products you use to repair or rebuild your leaky home you need to look the return on investment. As most of us cannot with any certainty know where our lives will be in 5 years time, I have adopted a 5 year payback policy. One overriding proviso is that the investment is known to make it easier to sell a house and one typically gets a greater than 1:1 return on the investment at the time of sale.

Simply put, since it is not expected that I own this house for any more than another few years – anything that I can claw back within 5 years is a great investment.

This has lead me to consider a number of sustainable products that are both energy efficient and reduce the need for maintenance. I will cover each of these in future blogs.

Learn more about risk mitigation of effective design and planning

Google Jumping Into Sustainable Energy

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Google is preparing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in finding cheaper, cleaner alternative energy sources. And they are walking the talk, with hhuge solar panels dominate its Californian headquarters, they are true supporters of sustainable energy.

The investment falls under the company’s philanthropic arm, US$20 million ($25.4 million) has already been committed to invest in start-up firms that research and develop solar, thermal and wind power as well as geothermal systems.

These three technologies were chosen as having the most promise of both reducing the overall cost of energy, and being capable of massive scale.

To date, the company has pledged US$10 million to eSolar [Pasadena, California-] to support research and development of solar thermal power, which concentrates heat from the sun to create steam and spin turbines.

It has also invested US$10 million in Makani Power [Alameda, California], which is developing high-altitude wind technologies.

Its particular interest in Enhanced Geothermal Systems [EGS] stem from the fact one can find find heat virtually anywhere. EGS is the ability to create power by pumping water into hot rocks in the ground rather than harvesting hot water already there. is also looking at energy transmission and storage, both in the US and world-wide.

All good news for homeowners!