Way before furnaces and central heating, humans had to stay warm somehow. How did our ancestors in Russia, Europe, Canada, and other cold places around the globe survive temperature extremes?
One thing they did was come up with smart ways to make use of nature and preserve heat inside their shelters. This method of heating and cooling is also known as passive or non-mechanical.
A lot of this was done through the design and structure of the home. Some igloos for instance use a short tunnel entrance below ground level to reduce heat loss and keep cold air out. Strategic placement of windows, doors, and passageways can greatly influence air movement and circulation, temperature, and humidity.
While we now have the convenience of mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to keep us comfortable no matter what the temperature is outside, we can still take advantage of natural methods to keep energy costs low.
When the wind picks up, heat from our home gets carried away. If the wind rises from 5 mph to 20 mph, the demand on your furnace more than doubles.
By shielding your home from the wind, you can save around 30% on your heating costs. One of the best and prettiest ways to block the wind is with evergreen trees and shrubs that maintain their fullness throughout winter.
Other objects, such as walls and fences, can block the wind as well, but they tend to create strong gusts whereas trees slow down the air and let it pass through gently. That’s why if trees aren’t an option, many homeowners opt for a wall with grilles to temper the winds. The open spaces of the grille should make up around 50% of the surface area.
The best solution, however, comes from nature. You can plant your trees in the right places to provide shade in the summer and win blockage in the winter. We recommend planting wind-blocking trees (evergreens) on the north and northwest sides of your home for maximum winter blockage. It’s best to plant your windbreak trees one or two tree heights from the house.
Source: Arbor Day Foundation
To take advantage of the natural warmth from the sun, plant deciduous trees (that lose their leaves) on the east and west sides of your house for maximum shade.
You can also help guide wind patterns by strategically designing a contoured landscape. Gradations of land and plants can help deflect the wind over and around the house.
If you want sunshine to warm the house and windows during winter, but want sunshade in the summer, plant deciduous trees on the east and west sides of the home.
Source: Arbor Day Foundation
Try not to plant evergreen trees on the south side where they are likely to block winter sunshine.
Learn more about how trees can provide shade in the summer and windbreaks in the winter.
Window glass and weatherstripping makes a big difference too. The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) tells you the amount the solar radiation that passes through the glass. The higher the SHGC, the more heat is transmitted. Choose dual-pane, low-e glass, and argon gas for higher-quality windows.
Use special weatherstripping for the best protection against drafts. Learn how to weatherstrip around windows and doors.
Consider using a wall of glass on the east or west sides of the home to capture the sun’s warmth. Foot-square glass blocks can help heat pass through during the day while provided a lot of insulation against night heat loss.
You can also cut in skylights or light wells to provide extra sun for heat and to help with basement humidity.
Remember to open the shades and blinds on your windows to bring in as much solar heat as possible.
While none of these measures will give you complete control over the weather, they do make a difference. We’re not saying you should give up your reliable HVAC system, but a slight shift in the wind or a couple degree changes can make a big difference in your energy costs and consumption.
Don’t hesitate to Ask a Champion for more information on improving energy efficiency around the home.
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