Designing an Energy-Efficient Home Based On Climate Conditions
The design of a house is largely determined by the climate or weather systems in its locations. For instance, countries with temperate or four-season climate cycles have houses that are equipped with heating systems or at least a fireplace. The seasonal snow, blizzards and year-round generally cold weather make it necessary to design a house that can provide protection against extreme cold.
Consequently, the materials used for these temperate zone houses also need to be customized for the particular cyclical weather conditions. Brick, concrete and thick wooden materials for the walls are ideal for this purpose. Of course, the availability of materials in a locality will also determine the house or shelter design such as in the case of Eskimos' igloos.
Designing an energy efficient house is not merely a fad or a passing trend. The increased environmental awareness and the continuing global climate change made it necessary to design such houses. These houses may be a bit more expensive than the typical houses but they are worth the extra expense, especially on the long term. In terms of appearance or architecture, energy-efficient houses are not radically different from standard houses but the subtle or even hidden differences can radically change the functionality of such homes.
Factors to consider
Four major factors should be considered when designing an energy efficient home, namely, insulation, heat-exchangers (heater or cooler), power sources, and lighting.
Insulation refers to the materials that can be installed on walls, ceiling and under floorboards. House thermal insulators may include one or a combination of the following materials: cellulose, glass wool, rock wool, polystyrene, urethane foam, vermiculite, perlite, wood fibre, plant fibre (cannabis, flax, cotton, cork, etc.), plant straw, animal fibre (sheep's wool), cement, and earth or soil.
Insulators are needed in homes that are located in cold regions to conserve internal heat. The opposite is true for homes that are located in hot regions. These insulators are needed in hot regions to prevent heat transfer or conduction from the exterior. Good ventilation is also necessary in homes that are located in hot and tropical regions.
Maintaining a stable interior temperature in a home is a crucial factor in maintaining comfort and energy efficiency. It could be as simple as an open window during hot seasons or a lit fireplace during cold seasons. On the other hand, heat exchangers are more sophisticated systems that may function both as heaters and coolers.
In most cases, heating and cooling systems are separate. Some use electricity such as in the case of air conditioning units while others use gas heat such as in the case of boilers. Homes that have minimal use for powered heat exchangers are more energy efficient.
This can be done by improving the insulation and ventilation systems. It is a matter of preserving the heat inside or preventing excessive heat from entering.
The type of power source is another important consideration when designing an energy-efficient home based on climate or cyclical weather conditions. A home can have alternative sources of energy aside from the main power grid.
Solar water heaters, solar panels, wind turbine, and water turbine systems can be used as alternative clean sources of energy. They can supplement the energy derived from the power distribution grid. Of course, the effectiveness of these alternative sources will largely depend on the availability of natural sources. Solar panels, for instance, are not ideal in locations that are mostly cloudy the whole year.
The interior illumination of a house comes from either natural source or from artificial lighting. During daytime, the light source is naturally the sun and the ambient reflected light. A house must have sufficient windows to allow natural light and avoid using artificial lights during daytime. The artificial lights, on the other hand, must be either fluorescent lights or LEDs. Reflectors and wall mirrors will also help maximize the light output. The walls must be painted white or at least bright colour to optimise light reflections.
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By Johnathon Black