Natural Cooling

In the times before electric air conditioning became widely available people used other means to keep their homes and other buildings cool. Over the years, many of these methods of cooling have been forgotten or largely ignored due to the relative ease of cooling with electric air conditioners.

In recent years builders have built well insulated houses without regard for ventilation or other natural methods of keeping a house cool. The windows in some houses are not placed strategically to catch a breeze, there are typically fewer windows, and some of them don’t even open at all.

Lately, there has been renewed interest in how the older homes were built to take advantage of the natural elements to lessen their dependence on mechanical air conditioning. Whether your purpose is to cut down on your cooling bill or eliminate it altogether, you can benefit by taking advantage of some of the methods used by the old timers that were off grid and had no access to electricity.

Here are just some of the methods they used;

  • Location; The old timers always tried to put their houses in a position to take advantage of the prevailing breeze.
  • They placed their windows strategically throughout the house to take advantage of available breezes.
  • They used higher ceilings to allow space for the hot air to rise out of their living area.
  • Some had double roofs with air space in between to prevent heating from the ceiling.
  • Many had underground basements for a cool room.
  • They would roof over an area between 2 buildings for a “breezeway”.
  • Many of the castles and abbeys in Europe had clay tile lined tunnels beneath them from which air was drawn into the building by opening the upper windows releasing the hot air and drawing in cool air from the tunnels by convective current.

These are just some of the many methods used before air conditioning was widely available. There are many more but these will hopefully get you thinking about what can be used to advantage in your own circumstances. Not every method is practical in all situations and some, like a second roof or tunnels for cool air, are downright expensive.

There are also many smaller things you can do to keep your dwelling cooler;

  • Put awnings over the windows to keep out the direct sunlight.
  • Grow shrubs around the house to keep the sun off the exterior walls.
  • Open windows and encourage ventilation in the night and early morning while the air is cool.
  • Keep an aquarium or indoor fountain as evaporating water cools the surrounding air.
  • Keep indoor plants for the same reason.
  • If you have 2 stories, keep the upstairs windows open and a couple open downstairs. This will set up convection current and draw fresh air into the downstairs windows.

There are an unlimited number of things you can do to keep your house cooler if you just think about it. None of these things is likely to keep your house as cool as electric air conditioning but, used together, some of these things will keep your house cooler and cut down on the air conditioning bill, and if you live in a place where it doesn’t get too hot, may eliminate the need for air conditioning altogether.

For this and other money saving articles of interest to off gridders and those that want to be off grid go to ; .



Off Grid Housing; Quick and Cheap

So, you have a piece of land and you want to set it up for living off grid. One of the first things you’ll be thinking about is housing. The most expensive investment most of us have is our home. Whether it is in a city or country our homes consume much of our disposable income for many years before we can get them paid off and truly call them ours. This doesn’t have to be the case.

There are many alternatives to housing that do not have the price tag of a conventional three bedroom house built on the spot by a contractor. The alternative I’m going to talk about is pre-fab buildings usually sold for storage sheds or work shops. These buildings are ideal for off grid use. There are many other alternatives but this is what I used to build our home, so I’m speaking from knowledge of living in two of these buildings, year round, for four years. Some of these buildings can be bought in kit form for you to assemble yourself or, like the buildings we chose, pre-assembled and delivered to your site intact.

These buildings are well built and are weatherproof when they are delivered to your site (ours even had the option of being pre-painted). They can be set upon a foundation for stability just like any other building and for the most part are very sturdy. One of the main advantages I found to this type of housing is that you will have immediate shelter from the time it arrives on your site. You can take shelter in it while you are finishing the inside to your own satisfaction.

We decided to use two buildings because of the limited size that could be hauled in over our backwoods roads. The largest available buildings we could get in here was 12ft. by 24ft. The buildings we chose are constructed of garage door panels which are 2 inches thick with foam insulation between the metal panels. This eliminated the need to insulate them.

We chose to make our bedroom and living room in one building and kitchen and bathroom in the other. All the construction I had to do in the bedroom was frame in 2 closets which I did with 2×4’s and did not wall them in so we didn’t need to wire lights in them for visibility, or put doors on them. This had the added advantage of keeping them aired out so we do not have the mildew and mold problems some of our neighbors have.

The kitchen/bathroom building was another matter. I had to install all the plumbing, bathtub/shower, and sink in the bathroom part and build a partial wall to separate it from the kitchen area. The kitchen area had to have sink, counter-tops, and overhead cabinet, plus I had to plumb it for propane as we have kitchen range and 2 propane refrigerators. All of this took a while, but was done a little bit at a time so it didn’t seem like so much work.

Since we are completely off grid and do not even have the possibility of access to outside power, I installed a 60 watt solar array for each building. The kitchen has 1 deep cycle marine battery which is adequate to run lights and 3-12 volt fans. The bedroom has 4 of the same batteries because of our laptop computers and satellite modem. These are adequate for lights, fans, and computers too if we don’t stay on them all day. I run a generator some evenings to power the air conditioner in summer and for an extra charge to the batteries when they need it on cloudy days.

Since buying our buildings, I have seen some very attractive storage buildings which would make very nice houses and even some that were 2 story with an upstairs room that would make a nice bedroom. There are some very interesting low cost storage buildings out there that could be converted into quick, cheap, alternative housing for off grid use.