Ideas and Background on the Proposed Retrofit

The present sandstone block house is built of thermal mass, is facing the south-east and has the potential to be an efficient passive solar house.

small stone houseThrough the progression of winter and spring, I have thought about different possibilities that would create a warm space on the property.

  1. There is the idea of building a passive solar tree house.
  2. There is the possibility of building a shed in the back of the house to test out passive solar building and methods on this property. While this is a nice idea, this means that the main house, with the kitchen and bathroom, remains more inefficient and  cold. So I have to ask myself, how useful is a warm shed without electricity?
  3. Then there is the possibility of making the current house more efficient via a passive solar retrofit, remodel project.  Let’s explore this one further.

Locational Background

The city has its main streets constructed at a 45 degree angle from the principle directions. Most of the roads leading into the city run parallel to the main directions, then shift as they enter Montrose.  Being located in the old part of town, the front of the house faces a south-easterly direction.

The kitchen is located on the north-east side of the house.  Because the house is built of uninsulated rock, a material that can conduct, store and release heat, and because of how the house is situated, the north-east side of the home does not absorb any of the winter sun’s heat.  As a result, that side of the house consistently tends to be the coldest part of the house.

Direction and Building Orientation Impacts

Because of how the house is oriented, the front of the house is southern facing, however, in the winter, the northeast facing side of the house does not get that much sun.
When a kitchen cupboard is opened in the winter, the cooler air, at least 10 degrees cooler than the temperature inside the house, comes out of the cabinets.

Currently, the cabinets are acting is the insulation for the kitchen.  I placed a thermometer in the cabinet to see how much colder the temperature inside was. The inside cabinet temperature was found to be at about 45 degrees, at a time when the inside temperature of the house was around 63 degrees. The picture was taken in the morning, on April 30th, at the beginning of spring. The inside temperature of the cabinets is much colder in the winter.

If the outside of the house on the north east side of the house is insulated, then the whole house will stay a warmer because of the density of the materials that it is made out of.  Utilize the inherent strength of the materials to make an efficient house.

Grand Ideas

Before I started any serious research, I came up with these grand plans.

The current structure is the darker square near the middle of the drawing. The dashed line in the back of the house is the outline of a small addition that would be knocked off.

An enclosed porch to the front would capture the sun’s energy, while the side to the west would be extended and an addition with two bedrooms, a living room and a bathroom would be added to the back.

These initial plans would have increased the house size by three times.

It is fun to dream isn’t it?

Here is a side view of the grand plan for the house that shows how the back addition would have clerestory windows that rise above the roof line of the structure in front to let heat energy – sunlight in to heat the back of the house.

Once again, it is fun to dream, no?  The reality of paying for that grand of a project is, however, rather a prohibitive force.

I need to go and talk to the city to find out more about building codes, permits, fees and other official things to do when building.

Keya Lea

Keya Lea likes to spend time outside, enjoying the sun.

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