Over the Memorial Day weekend I was visiting a house I designed 13 years ago. The weather was very nice… sunny about 80 degrees and comfortable inside without air conditioning.
This started me thinking about heating, air-conditioning and comfort. Very often today, we have a tendency to jump to a technical solution and forget about those natural solutions that successfully provide comfort.
Somehow I don’t think we really wants a “cool” house in the summer and a “warm” house in the winter. I think what we are after is to be comfortable.
So why was this house comfortable in sunny 80 degree weather, with Southern facing glass and no air-conditioning?
Climate was the first reason. It was not humid. High cathedral ceilings in at the main spaces was the second reason. The ceiling height kept the layer of hot air far enough above the occupants to lessen the radiant heat effect. And third, there was a pleasant breeze which allowed for an air change and evaporative cooling across your skin.
In addition, the roof was very well insulated and the North side of the house was in shade. This allowed for a temperature induced draft from the cooler North side to the warmer South side.
In the late afternoon, the house would have a tendency to heat up a bit on the second floor. To augment the natural air flow, simple ceiling fans kept the air movement at the comfortable level so sleeping was no problem.
The three lessons I learned this weekend were:
- What we really want is comfort.
- You need to design with the climate and not against it.
- Technology is best and most efficient when it is used to augment a natural solution instead of replacing one.
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