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NetZero Energy Architects "Hybrid" Home Energy Design

Solutions that Reduce Home Energy Use While Increasing Quality and Comfort.
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The Home of Tomorrowland

“Capturing and storing Geo-SolarEnergy in the crawl space”

One could think of our homes as insulated envelopes, similar to that of Styrofoam coolers, protected from the outside heat or cold. If we think of our houses this way, we can more easily understand the idea of storing the Earth and Sun’s energy within. Thermal mass, which is material that retains heat or cold, such as drywall, stone flooring, etc, assist in maintaining constant temperature inside our homes. The best material for this thermal mass storage is water. Water has a high specific heat, and will store energy to radiate or absorb from the surroundings. Most homes in California are made of wood, and wood has a low specific heat which doesn’t hold temperature well, so if we add thermal mass (water) within the insulated envelope, we can store the Earth and Sun’s energy. During the winter, energy is stored from the earth and sun, and during the summer, energy is lost to the earth, and at night, called nocturnal cooling.

Have you ever noticed that the temperature in a basement is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer? This is because the earth’s temperature is a constant 55- 57 degrees Fahrenheit. We can store and benefit the home’s heating and cooling needs, by capturing this energy source. This can be accomplished by passive and minimally active ways when used in conjunction with the new ventilation needs of our homes.

The energy conscious homes of today, are becoming more insulated, air tight, and are using less fuel for thermal comfort needs. But, because of the air tightness of these homes, the new building code being adopted this January 2011, recognizes this concern, and is requiring fresh air to be mechanically introduced, each day, into the dwelling.

An “Energy Recovery Ventilator” (ERV), or “Heat Recovery Ventilator” (HRV), can be incorporated as part of the new ventilation’s incoming and exiting fresh air, providing fresh air with minimal loss of indoor temperature.This simple device is cost effective, transfers the incoming “clean air” temperature to the exiting “stale air”, and therefore maintains the temperature within the home.

Take this idea one step further and introduce a mechanically ventilated crawl space, becoming part of a “Hybrid” passive “Geo-Exchange”, and active system, creating an opportunity for capturing, storing, and utilizing energy. By encapsulating the crawl space, we can mechanically ventilate this area with stored energy (water), assisting the heating and cooling needs of the home. Traditional crawl spaces which are vented to the exterior, for the prevention of mold and decay, increase the home’s energy loss. This old ventilation code was adopted several decades ago, long before the energy concerns of today.

“Air Flow Design”, or ventilation and distribution, is a key component in the overall energy efficiency of our homes thermal and health needs, and can become an opportunity for a cost effective way to capture and utilize the ever-present abundance of “Geo-Solar” energy.

Geo-Exchange Crawl Space

Lamorinda Weekley Newspaper

September 1, 2010