A short newsletter giving practical advice on minimising your energy for heating and cooling focusing on low cost easily implemented ideas.
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Is Energy Storage the way of the future in air conditioning?
How do I save energy when building an extension?
Spring (and Autumn) are the times of year where most people with a little thought can reduce their energy use for heating and cooling to a minimum. The basic principles are:
Energy storage has always been part of efficient building design in temperate climates (not applicable in the humid tropics.). However some new ideas are starting to gain favour.
A number of people around the world and in Australia, have realised that once you have appropriate window shading, decent insulation and minimal air leaks, the next big step in reducing energy use is to use energy storage from day to night.
The traditional method was to use cavity brick, which stores the heat and also slows the heat flow through the walls. (This means that the maximum heat flow through a cavity brick wall occurs at night when you can use cooling breezes to get rid of it. If the heat is too much for breezes to remove, your air conditioner will operate much more efficiently due to the cooler outdoor temperature.)
More recent brick veneer on concrete slab construction mainly relies on the concrete slab to store heat as the brick in the brick veneer walls is less effective when on the outside. (In fact some people have built reverse brick veneer walls, with brick on the inside, heavy insulation and a lightweight cladding on the outside-this is actually the ultimate brick construction to minimise heating and cooling needs.)
People are starting to use phase change materials. Phase change materials are generally a liquid at a temperature above the target temperature and a solid below the target temperature. Then as the temperature starts to rise, heat flows into the solid material melting it. This then keeps the building cool the same way that ice keeps your drink cool, even when you are sitting outside in the heat.
In commercial buildings the concrete floor slabs can be used in conjunction with night-time cooling to eliminate some (or in cooler climates all of the air-conditioning needs). Cooling water can be circulated through the slab at night, so that the building is ready for the day! In commercial buildings, air conditioning generally uses a lot more energy than heating, so saving air conditioning energy is particularly beneficial.
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The design of an extension should in principle follow the same rules as a whole house. However there are a number of factors that tend to make extensions bigger energy hogs than the rest of the house. The principal problem when designing an extension is the need to minimise the number of trades to get the most bang for the buck.
For example the cheapest extension tends to be all glass, as only one trade is required. Unfortunately this tends to be an air conditioning and heating disaster. The heat gains and losses through single glass tend to be at least three times that of uninsulated weatherboard, and up to six times that of properly insulated weatherboard. I have been to some such extensions where I had to tell my potential client that it just isn't possible to get comfort in them on anything but a mild day. If you want to be comfortable design the extension with walls and then put some windows in for views, and if you have a north wall, for warmth.
The real cost of a window is much greater than the apparent cost. You need to add in the cost of curtains, external blinds (if it faces west or east), the cost of the larger air conditioner and the greater running costs for heating and cooling. A lined and insulated garage (with appropriate windows) will be more comfortable, and cost less to heat and cool than an all glass walled extension. See http://www.coolmax.com.au/coolmax/cool-art-studio.htmBack to Contents
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