Conservation is vital to make living in a solar home work. As I have said before, my wife and I intend to build a rammed earth solar home and we are looking for the right piece of property to build it on. You can get back to the beginning of this series to find out more about what we are doing here.
So, how do you make a solar home work? The first step is to reduce the amount of electricity that your house needs to be livable, and one of the biggest draws on electricity is for heating and cooling. During the summer months half of our electric bill is just to run the air conditioner, and we don’t even keep our house all that cool.
Our house will have rammed earth tire walls on three sides with earth berms against the outside. This by itself would keep the house a constant 54 – 56 degrees, like in a cave. The fourth wall, the one facing south, will have large windows to allow in the sun to heat the space up to about 70 degrees year around. This is called passive solar heating. The earthen walls will store the heat that the absorb during the day and radiate it back out at night.
Without needing electricity for heating and cooling, the solar panels on the roof should be able to generate enough electricity for the rest of the services we need.
There are are other things that we can do to reduce our need for electricity. Another potentially large expense is the electricity for the refrigerator or freezer. If we keep those to the back of the home where they will stay in the shade, they won’t have to work as hard as if it was in the direct sunlight at the front of the home.
Some lifestyle changes will also help to reduce our need for electricity. Basically, if you need light to do something, try to do it while the sun it up. When we do need light after dark we try to use LED lights as much as possible. We can also shift our sleeping schedules to coincide with the sun moving across the sky. Obviously this will be much easier to do during the long days of summer and will be more of a challenge during the winter when the sun can be gone by about 6PM.
That’s the plan and we will see how it goes once we actually get it built and start living in it.