My House, My Wife and Cold Weather

The first three years in our new home were the coldest three in living memory for me with recorded temperatures as low as -11°C & -6°C during those winters. I had designed to go to just below freezing with no heating so we had to put a small electric heater on, it used about 60W when the temperature was -3°C and 300W when we had -6°C. It was a simple electric convector heater connected to a plug in thermostat.

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Philosophy, ideals and research

 These were the design concepts that I considered:-

  • Very low energy use, lower than a Passive House or Code 6 Code for Sustainable Homes.
  • Maximise solar contribution to water heating using the inevitably excess of heated water to charge up an interseasonal thermal store
  • Build tight and ventilate right
  • Heavyweight construction – maximise the ability to store solar gains and minimise temperature fluctuations
  • High comfort – very low energy demand
  • Triple glazed windows
  • Mitigation of thermal bridging by design
  • Nuts and bolts

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Maintaining the external timber

No treatment is necessary for the oak frame as oak is very resistant to decay, it was green oak so some joints have shrunk to leave a crack this is part of its beauty. If it must be treated then use one coat of boiled linseed oil every five years, having started with two coats the first time round. I have no intention of treating my oak. The eagle eyed among you will have seen that I used tiny lead cover flashings to protect the top fully chamfered edges of the horizontal members.

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Heating The Ground

I used to live in a house with a solid uninsulated floor, I have measured the temperature under my floor at various depths and found that they are a lot warmer than is generally believed. This is because I lived in the house and it had been heating the soils under my floors, the heat lost to the ground had warmed up the sub strata and immediately under the floor it had assumed the average temperature of the house (this should in my opinion also apply to insulated floors as insulation slows the passage of heat but does not stop the flow of heat completely).

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Interseasonal Thermal Storage

This is based on ideas from Drakes Landing Solar Community .

Before starting to build I drilled five200mm 9m deep boreholes on the site, two of these are for my interseasonal thermal storage. These are approximately central under each half of the house. On digging out the basement we were careful not to damage the pipes loaded into and grouted and managed to carefully re route them to in line with the central basement wall. These pipes now transpoer warm and hot water down under the house to a depth of 6.5m below the basement floor.

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