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 Author: crow
PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:50 am 
During a Western Institute for Lifelong Learning (WILL) class on home energy conservation and passive solar heating that met on February 5th, 2015, the participants agreed to meet once more for a “hands on” demonstration of techniques on where and how to find energy leaks in the home or business and how to correct them. The class met on March 25, at a home in Tyrone owned by Gary Shirk, one of the class participants. The instructor, Michael Sauber, who works part time for the Town of Silver City Office of Sustainability, methodically went from outside the house to the inside, pointing out common sources of air leaks into and out of the home, such as windows, doors, vents, electric and plumbing pathways on the outside walls and lack of sufficient insulation in the walls and ceiling.

In addition, an assessment of the passive solar potential of the home was made. Most of the houses in Tyrone are on streets going east/west and have a longer dimension east to west versus north to south which lends well to natural heating by the sun (passive solar heating). By having a longer east to west dimension, there is more area exposed to the low winter sun as the sun arcs through the winter sky, and a house can gain much free heat energy if it isn’t blocked out. As it turns out, Mr. Shirk’s house has a number of windows facing south that allow heat gain during the winter, and the house is constructed of massive “slump block” brick which not only absorbs heat, but retains it as well.

Mr. Sauber suggested painting a section of the south facing brick wall an attractive dark color, framing around it and putting a clear glazing material (glass, polycarbonate etc.) over the framing that would act as a solar heat collector. By doing that, the sun’s light rays would come through the glazing material, hit the surface of the dark colored brick and heat it. Once the light energy has turned to heat energy, the glazing material reflects the heat energy back to the wall which retains the heat (the greenhouse effect). To prevent the wall from getting too hot during the summertime when the sun arcs higher in the sky, a roof overhang is necessary to shade the wall. The existing standard overhang on Mr. Shirk’s house is just right to shade the wall sufficiently. To make best use of the massive wall turned solar collector, a vent at the top and bottom could be added to allow natural convection of the warm air into the house.

A large patio door on the south side of Mr. Shirk’s house also allows the winter sun to directly heat the darker colored concrete floor of the house for a simple “radiant floor heat” without the need for another heat source, pumps or under floor plumbing – again, the “passive solar” concept.

One more workshop like this one is being contemplated and will be free to anyone interested. For more information contact Michael Sauber at the Office of sustainability at 575 654-3906 or email at mikesauber@gmail.com.

# # #
Michael Sauber
Planner, Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy
Office of Sustainability, Community Development Dept.
Silver City, NM
575 654-3906

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