Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Energy (IN)efficient Homes

Fair Warning: This one is a tome!

The way we build homes now is incredibly inefficient in comparison with even 100 years ago. For the greater thesis project on neighborhood design, I'm reading this amazing book called Vernacular Architecture by Henri Glassie. It explores the connection between the way humans organize their lives and the way their houses are built. So in Ireland 50 years ago for example, homes had thatched roofs. You would ask your neighborhood thatcher to come and take care of business for you. This was something that had to be repaired often and different members of the community were responsible for different portions of the home creation. Homes were as 'green' as you could get since the materials used to make them were local. They were also energy efficient since they were built to jive with their surroundings.

Now of course, homes aren't built for a specific person's needs. They're designed detached from people altogether. Profit is the number one goal. Materials are shipped in from all over the world and shoddy construction seems the norm. Developers won't even take the time to situate the home on the lot in the best way or have windows facing the proper direction! According to the government's energy-saving website, as much as 30 percent of the energy our homes use is wasted through drafts and lack of insulation.

I have thatched roof cottage envy! I've expressed before my displeasure at how disconnected I am from my stuff. The same rings true for my home. I want to be able to build my dwelling, assure it meets my needs and it holds true to my environmental principles, but I can't. I don't know how and I don't have any friends who know how either. This is a lifegoal of mine, but I haven't the time or the money at present.

What I can do is make simple modifications to my house to up the efficiency a bit. I have the draftiest house in the world. It's essentially a glorified studio, but has 5 windows! This is great for light and I don't have to use lamps until after 6 pm, but my little radiator has to work constantly to keep the place warm. If I turn it off, the house is an icebox within the hour! In my bathroom, there's a vent that is basically a hole in the wall. There's plastic flap over it, but it doesn't close all the way. Great for summer; horrible in Winter. Condensation freezes there some mornings! On three sides of my home, the walls are cinder block covered in wallboard with NO insulation at all. If I'm ever too hot, all I need to do is touch them and I'm freezing again.

I managed the following yesterday:

1) I taped the stupid bathroom flap shut with packing tape. Much toastier environment to dry off after a shower! I notice a difference already.
2) Armed with cardboard cutouts and white duct tape (to match my white walls and window) I pasted the cardboard where my window unit AC is to stop the draft a bit. The AC unit does have those stupid accordian flap thingies, but it's really thin plastic between me and the outdoors. Not enough.
3) I took down my silly gauze curtain from the window in my bed area and hung a blanket up instead to try and trap some warm air on this side. It looks hideous but i'll work on making a better curtain later.
4) In the kitchen, I duct taped my two windows at the seams. It's perhaps a little too Anthrax-scare for comfort, but I won't be opening them for another month at least since they lead into the courtyard where the undergrads who inhabit the other apartments in my house have beer pong matches nightly. It's too loud to warrant the windows' use until summer heat demands it. I realize they make weatherstripping for this sort of thing, but I'm too cheap to buy it.
5) There's a place under my front door where air gets in. I've taken a long, skinny strip of cardboard, covered it with the white duct tape so it's camoflaged, and taped a little flap to the bottom of my door so that there's less of a hole.

This was all Free, since I already had the stuff. Hopefully it will cut down a bit on the amount of fuel used to heat my home!

[Image via A Picassa Album ]

1 comment:

Sharon J said...

What a busy bee you've been :)

I have cardboard stuck to the front of the ventilator on my kitchen wall to stop the draught but some still sneaks through. It's not a great solution though cos it means fumes don't get out easily. It really needs replacing. Also, my porch door has warped and no longer closes so I get terrible draughts come through from the front door. Any chance you could explain your solution to that in a bit more detail because that's something I'd like to do.

You're very right about the way homes are built these days, although to be honest, my mum's house was built 120 years ago and is full of draughts. It was originally a workers cottage so I guess they didn't care so much about the quality of housing for the poor.