Sunday, February 15, 2009

Efficency in homes.

There is a LOT of lip service on tv and in the media today about "home efficiency". How to design a home or building to be more efficient in heat and cooling, lighting, etc. And that is exactly what this is, lip service. They have not said one thing that is any different from what I have in my Architect and home design and energy books I have in my library from the 60's and 70's. They talk about long eaves, thermal mass, and passive cooling. yet it's impossible to buy such a home. Builders flat out refuse to build these homes because they cant get maximum profits. The typical cookie cutter home that everyone owns is a very bad design. No design to siting the home on the lot, nothing to take advantage of sunlight on the south side. I have even seen homes that have the bulk of their windows on the northern exposure. On top of that the massive lack of skylights in homes, poor thermal design, money spent on cabinets, real wool carpet, and marble counters instead of triple pane windows and real high efficiency HVAC.

But you are not stuck with the really poor engineering and design of your smaller home. Smaller homes take to improvements better than the 2900-8600sq foot mcMansion. The typical 1000sq foot bungalow will enjoy major efficiency improvements when insulation is improved. replacing all the windows with efficient ones is far cheaper for a larger gain. adding the new technology skylights on single level smaller homes is easier as fewer are needed, the roof to ceiling distance is less, and the roof pitch is typically lower. Starting with Skylights. The tube type skylight is very energy efficient and will bring a a LOT of light to a dark hallway or room. Smaller homes having less dark areas can make up a lot of light fill with 1 to 3 of these tube skylights. Doubling the insulation in the home would cost less than $1200.00 and save that much easily over a single season. and upgrading the windows, when you have only 10-15 of them instead of 20-30 windows is significantly less with a larger gain. Most smaller homes and older condos are built on a budget. Therefore any improvement in insulation and windows is typically a HUGE improvement.

without spending a HUGE amount of money you cant fix the short or non existent eaves or add in a thermal mass or add more windows to the south wall. but there ARE things you can do to improve your current home. Even apartment dwellers can do things to improve. Put up the clear window plastic is a very large improvement. More expensive is to have plexi-glass cut to fit in the window openings and using rubber seals, but still very effective. If you have south facing windows that are having a problem letting a lot of heat in during the summer, removable mirrorized window tint will make a huge difference in reflecting that light and heat back away from the inside of the home.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Smaller Storage.

In search of better storage in the bedroom My wife and I started brainstorming in the Ikea catalog. WE found that with a little bit of work and expense we can build a storage bed for far cheaper than one could be bought. We also discovered that the tall wardrobes give us far more storage in the bedroom than standard dressers would. 2 of the nearly 8 foot tall wardrobes and a little ingenuity gives us nearly 3X the storage a pair of standard dressers will in the bedroom... This is a HUGE benefit in a much smaller bedroom. We are used to having a 15X25 bedroom with closet. Moving to a far smaller 10X15 bedroom presents storage issues. Without a dresser to set a TV on, you can bolt a articulating arm to the side of the wardrobe and mount the TV to that which allows it to be off the ground and can easily be moved out of the way a smallish 27"-32" LCD mounted high on the wardrobe this way would be very comfortable to watch.

Another benefit of making your own storage bed is you can do things differently... as seen in the image above, these clever people did the same thing I am talking about. at ikea hacker this bedroom adds a lot more storage to the bedroom with a small increase in height and no special woodworking abilities. They simply combined 2 bed frames and 2 shelving units.

In a smaller space it's VERY important for everything to do double or even triple duty. your bed and everything in your bedroom should store things or use all the space you have to the maximum it can.