Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Location: Oakland, CA
It's made at room temperature, often from fresh garden produce, so no heating the kitchen via stove or oven or open refrigerator, and no driving to the store (assuming you've stored up some bulgur). Plus the herbs in it will make you feel a little bit cooler, perhaps combining with the low-stress process of making and eating it to allow you to get by with less A/C.
"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men. They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
We can't eat couscous, but you can use cooked rice in the same ways....
It is a good idea to do your cooking early in the morning when things are still cool (if you aren't using a solar cooker or something like that). I wash the dishes then, too, and hang out the laundry and do my outside chores.
Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Location: Vancouver Island
Solar cooking has already been mentioned, For times when you can't do that, try an induction cooktop. A 1400 watt induction hob will heat just about anything faster that a 2400watt electric coil and 90% goes straight to the pot instead of 50% and the rest to your kitchen. Ours cost about $90 Can. and we liked it so much we got two more and converted our stove to all induction. A 4 hob flush mount in Canada is $2200, but 3 counter top units are less than $300 all together. I can get a flush fount from the UK for about $700 after shipping exchange etc. but it would not be CSA approved and so nullify my house insurance. The counter top ones are all CSA. and so the only problem was making sure I had 3 outlets on separate breakers... fuses in our case as I used the now unused fuses that used to goto the coils. The only thing to watch for is they need to be switched as the power supply draws at least 6w even turned off. In our case that would be an 18w vampire. I used the old coil controls as a switch, complete with the neon indicators.
Even if you are renting, I think one would be worth while. We found that we often only use 1 pot for a meal, rarely more than 2. These work really well with cast iron too. They react more like gas too, they heat faster and turn off as soon as the switch is hit. My wife likes them too, while we were half and half, it was her first choice.
Also, if you must bake (my wife from the Philippines doesn't, I do) do as much as possible, I can fit 6 to 8 loaves of bread plus a sheet of rolls into the oven at once (too big to use a mixer for which also saves power... I use a no-knead style). My 5 year old makes the rolls from part of my dough.
Joined: Nov 15, 2010
Hi, new to the forum; found through richsoil.com - great realist eco-site!
I just wanted to point out that cooling south-facing exposures is different than east / west facing exposures. An awning is definitely the best way to keep southern exposures cool in summer, and if properly built will still allow the warm (lower) winter sun to provide passive heat. Honestly, trees are not the best solution for southern exposure protection because the hottest sun in the middle of the day still shines directly into the windows (trust me – I have 2 old trees 20 feet from the southern wall and one is angled very much towards the house (I think because there was an old hedge directly next to it as it grew) with the canopy coming quite close to the house). Trees cannot be planted close enough to the house to prevent this because their roots will destroy the foundation. If you have a 3 ft high window then an awning that sticks out approx. 32 inches from the house and has a 9-12" drop (the lowest part of the awning, furthest from the window) should provide protection from the hottest, most direct heat and still allow the sun's rays to enter in winter.
On the east / west exposures an awning is not the way to go, but a shutter-system is. The sun shines straight in, rather than from above, so shutters or even a trellis a few feet in front (if on ground-level) will work. The "shutters" don't have to be solid, but can be slatted to allow ventilation. Shrubs / trees on the east-west exposures do help a lot.
The key is to block the excess heat before it enters the windows – blinds on the inside help, but they too heat up and hold that heat in, so blocking the heat from the outside is key. Insulated curtains are great in the winter – they do the opposite – they keep the heat inside the house.
Definitely get an attic exhaust fan to help cool the attic! Simply doing this means the attic remains at 100 degrees or so and therefore the excess heat in the house can rise into the attic and escape. Without proper attic ventilation the attic becomes saturated with heat (it gets trapped) and cannot absorb the heat from below. Heat naturally rises, so an attic exhaust fan just helps it along that much more. But you need proper passive venting for it to work (large gable intake vents, usually).
If you have ridge vents and soffit vents, they will interfere with the attic fan. They are designed so the soffits intake fresh outside air and exhaust the hot attic air through the ridge vents. New construction requires this; old houses usually lack this. Adding an exhaust fan will actually reverse the flow of air and it will suck the air in from the ridge vents – very bad!
What I did (ok, I am still in the process of this messy job) is I installed an exhaust fan in a gable vent that faces west. I have another gable vent that faces east, and two huge old gable vents facing south and north that are actually a foot lower than the new attic. These 3 gable vents are the intake feeds. (We put on an extension and the new attic floor is 8 ft. above the second story, whereas the old “attic” crawlspace was 7 ft. above the original second story). The new attic has soffit vents at the eaves (bottom of roof) and a ridge vent. What I am doing is “closing off” this airflow from the actual attic space (where you can stand), but still allowing the soffit-ridge airflow to cool the actual roof itself (plywood decking and shingles). I am doing this by furring out the inside of each roof joist bay with 2x2’s and stapling perforated (breathable) radiant barrier to it, thereby leaving a 1.5”-2” airspace between the roof deck and the radiant barrier so the air from the soffit goes straight up and out through the ridge vents. The radiant barrier is basically a replacement for those Styrofoam baffle things you use before insulating roof rafters. The radiant barrier also reflects excess heat away from the attic, whereas that Styrofoam does nothing but create an airspace. The reverse air-flow is stopped, and the roof itself should last longer because the soffit-ridge vents are only cooling it, not the entire attic. Because I have 3 gable intake fans there is plenty of airflow for the exhaust fan. I have an electric hardwired fan with a humidistat control for the winter. I was going to go with solar, but after reading many reviews, I would have needed at least 2-3 solar fans to provide enough ventilation.
We plan on adding a whole-house fan as well. This will be located at the top of the staircase in the second floor ceiling and it will exhaust the warm air in the house into the attic. This is why we had to install a powerful attic exhaust fan – to exhaust all the air that will eventually be entering the attic. Hopefully this will eliminate all need for air-conditioning. The house originally had an old gigantic one, and my mother swears that it worked great back in the day, so eventually we shall see. Whole-house fans are expensive, though, especially a large and quiet one. Right now we have window air-conditioners, but only turn them on when it gets unbearably hot (over 85 degrees over a few days), and because they make me sick I rarely keep them on at night.
Basic passive cooling is obtained by simply opening your windows from the TOP, not the bottom – because hot air rises. Adding a window exhaust FAN to one of the windows at the top helps tremendously! If there are many windows in the room I usually crack one at the bottom and the rest at the top for more cross-ventilation. We also added ceiling fans to most of the rooms – helps a LOT!
Also, if you happen to live in an old house with solid PLASTER walls, DO NOT destroy them and replace them with drywall!!! Seriously, my original house has solid wood 1x12 shiplap sheathing covered with tarpaper and cedar shakes, and inside is solid plaster on rock lath that is almost a full inch thick – the living room / breakfast room is the warmest room in the winter, coolest in summer – NEVER needs air-conditioning! We even disconnected the radiator that was in the kitchen. The new “modern / high-tech” drywall - insulation – plywood sheathing is a JOKE!!! It is FREEZING in winter, deathly hot in summer! That’s all the proof I need that thermal mass truly works! Even better, it is soundproof – WITHOUT insulation! Seriously, I put R-32 in the new addition ceiling between the first and second floor, but you can hear EVERYTHING! Drywall sucks! But, if you leave the scraps outside in the rain and remove the paper you can crush it up and add it to your clay soil to soften it (gypsum)!
A tip on flooring – the floors above the full basement are warm in winter, but over the crawlspace (1950’s addition) were always freezing. The new addition is also on a crawlspace, and we took up the old oak 1950’s floor (to be re-used in the old kitchen that will eventually become a butler’s pantry / laundry room), and just installed a new wood floor across the new/old addition. Normally wood floors are installed over resin paper or 15 pound tar paper. But, we had our Sassafras custom milled and they told us to use 30 pound felt/tar paper underneath. We did. Wow – what a difference! It has totally eliminated the draft from below! The insulation in the 1950’s crawlspace was installed in the 1980’s (silver-faced), and that wasn’t changed, so the thicker felt/tar paper was definitely what made the difference. BTW: Sassafras is a native, very sustainable tree – it forms colonies! I didn’t like new oak compared to the antique oak in the original house, so when looking for wood floors I found a place in Indiana that mills flooring in all species, including Sassafras. It is a softer wood, just a bit harder than yellow pine, so many people don’t think of it for flooring (or anything, for that matter), but there are pine floors in New England that have lasted over 200 years, so softness didn’t bother me. Also, we had a freak Nor’Easter last spring during which an ancient Sassafras tree of ours finally fell (well, the lower 25 feet stayed in place, but the top 40-60 feet fell straight across my yard, taking out part of my birch tree cluster along the way. I was sad, and although I have a few babies growing, I decided to honor that great old tree with a Sassafras floor. Ironically, the mother tree came back to life and now is covered in new growth at the top! At the base she is approx. 3 ft. in diameter (I haven’t measured her circumference, though). It is a gorgeous floor! And smells awesome when cut!
this might be obvious to some, but most people are oblivious to this:
adding to #14- stress that fans only mean something when blowing on skin or anything else you are trying to cool down. I've seen too many people leave fans running all day while away, on the mistaken belief that the house will cool down.
On a similar note, when simmering something that just got cooked, (and putting it outside is not an option) cool it in a sink full of water, then drain the water once it is warmer than the air.
Periodically wet your forearms, especially outside in the sun. There are lots of small veins that are close to the surface of the skin in your arms, and when you wet them, the moisture evaporates very quickly, wicking the heat from your skin. Since there is blood running directly beneath it, you cool the blood at the same time, and that makes a huge difference. May seem silly, but try it. You'll feel it right away! (Warm water works just as well as cool water, so don't worry too much about keeping cool water close by. It's not the temperature of the water that cools you, it's the evaporation)
Also, vines are great, and you can take it a step further by planting watermelon vines in indoor planters in your south facing windows. It diffuses light beautifly, and extends watermelon season for those of us in the north. Here's mine:
I never fail. I don't believe in it. I only succeed at finding what doesn't work.
Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Location: South West France
Lovely James !
When we built our house we calculated the solar gain in winter and summer and added a terrace to take full advantage of the high sun in summer and the low sun entering the house in winter. We insulated the floors with straw bales and made heavy clay "tiles" to soak up the heat in winter and keep the house cool in summer.
It gets very hot here - well for me anyway, I'm from Scotland.
Here are some photos to show what I mean.
The angle of the sun summer and winter - measured at the spring and autumn solstice to determine the size of the opaque section of the south-facing terrace.
The climbers and trees lose their leaves in winter but shade the house in summer :
Winter solstice :
Summer solstice :
We use the terrace to dry clothes, dry fruit and herbs and if you can add a terrace to your home it's the one thing I'd recommend to really keep the heat out of the house.
my humble tip: icepacks are not just for when you are injured. I like the reusable "gel" icepacks you can get at any pharmacy or grocery store. Keep 2 per person and when it is really hot [or you need to do hot work, like mowing the lawn] take out an ice pack and use a bandana to wrap it around your neck. A LOT of blood goes thru your neck and it works like a personal air conditioning system when you have an ice pack on. Switch between the two packs in the freezer as needed, so you always have one in use and one cooling and on standby.
Also, I can't emphasize drinking water enough. Figure out how much your body wants and can take and set goals for the day. Every time I go to work I bring 2 quart sized canteens to drink [because I prefer the taste of my well water]. My canteens go with me everywhere.
Joined: Apr 25, 2010
H Ludi Tyler wrote: So beautiful, Irene!
I agree, good health and happyness to enjoy
Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Location: South West France
Thank you all very much.
I usually don't like new houses but our house "feels" nice.
It's very satisfying to be able to put all you've learned about building into practice and as the seasons progress you find out that the house is comfortable all year round and very cheap to run.
Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Location: North Central Michigan
please touch your timers, they use a ton of electricity !
we removed all of our timers and saved like $20 a month
Bloom where you are planted.
Joined: Aug 07, 2010
Zeer Pots-- great for keeping things cool (probably not appropriate for dairy, meats or to prevent spoilage.. they are coolers, not refrigerators) they can limit the number of times necessary to open the fridge doors are cheap to use and super convenient... keep one in the garden!
Joined: Dec 01, 2010
Location: Abilene, KS
I read somewhere about hanging a wet towel in front of an open window for a low tech swamp cooler.
Summer humidity is a problem here. There have been a couple times that we have run the dehumidifier at night and kept the windows closed. Despite the low heat that it throws off, the room was definately more comfortable in the morning.
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Joined: May 20, 2011
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
I just installed a whole house fan a while back and it makes a big difference.
For those that are not familiar with these, a whole house fan is mounted in the ceiling and exhausts house air into the attic. This is different than an attic fan which specifically is used to exhaust hot air in the attic to the outside. The whole house fan actually does BOTH as the positive air pressure created by the fan pushing house air into the attic pushes air out of the attic vents, cooling the attic too.
You open windows in the house to pull cooler outside air into the house. (Though, if the air is hot outside the fan is only going to pull it in) This works best obviously in the evening, night, and early morning.
I typically open the windows in the room I am occupying more than others in the house so that this room cools faster. Unused rooms are kept closed.
One trick I use that I've never seen anyone else mention is that in mid day, when the air outside is hot, I CLOSE THE WINDOWS and open my inside basement door and windows in the basement. The fan then pulls cool air out of the basement and into the house- in the room with the basement door it is almost chilly even if in the 80's outside. On top of that, the attic is being cooled by the house air and this keeps the house from heating up as much.
I plan to use the whole house fan in the winter too as here in Georgia there are many days in winter when the outside temps can reach the 60s- low 70's. In this case I will be actually WARMING the inside air with warmer outside daytime temps.
Not to mention the whole house fan is good for exhausting funky cooking odors,etc. at any time.
Just read this article in Backhome Mag, no 113, and it talks about how, even with insulation, about 60% of summer heat enters through the roof. This system uses water to cool off the house, and for every gallon that evaporates, over 8000 Btu of heat are "sucked away." The system (PERC) lowers AC electrical costs (even by half) and extends roof tile life span. You can even create a water catchment system so that the runoff water waters your garden etc.
Joined: May 20, 2011
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
Suzy_Bean wrote: Just read this article in Backhome Mag, no 113, and it talks about how, even with insulation, about 60% of summer heat enters through the roof. This system uses water to cool off the house, and for every gallon that evaporates, over 8000 Btu of heat are "sucked away." The system (PERC) lowers AC electrical costs (even by half) and extends roof tile life span. You can even create a water catchment system so that the runoff water waters your garden etc.
I used to work in a textile factory years ago that had water sprayers on the roof to cool the building. I think this was pretty common years ago.
Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Location: swampland virginia
my grandmother use to always carry a wet towel with her to wipe herself down. for years as a kid, i thought it was to wipe the sweat, but in my teenage years when i helped her, realized it was not just to wipe the sweat, but to evenly spread moisture over the body or anyplace that was hot, and hanging the wet hand towel over your neck, head arm, or anything always cooled you there, as the towel's wet and evaporating.
The drip / spray on the roof is something I have thought about doing here at the house. have not done the math, but would require some water storage, a few pumps, and the piping. 50 inches of rain a year, think I could spare a few drops.
Hops was used for years to cover the south sides of farm buildings. Cheap, easy, no pruning (dies back to the ground) gives you a crop for beer or tea, can certain types can grow 30' high quickly, does not take a lot of support to hold it up. If you go with all female plants, no worries about it going to seed.
Our bodies used to have automatic thermostats in them until somebody invented air conditioned cars and homes + offices... what's wrong with a little sweat? It's our own evaporative cooling system.
For hot water... the breadbox or ICS system is easy... i have a 20 gallon uninsulated tank on the SW crnr of my greenhouse that produces scalding hot rain water every day... OR you can order some 4'x8' or 3'x9' copper fin absorber plates direct from a manufacturer... i got mine from a place in El Cajon for around $250. Slap a couple used patio door windows on them and you can make steam. Drainback systems are the only way to go.
Taking a SIESTA under a shade tree from around 2-4pm like most southern folks do is also a lost art.
A more advanced technique is simple geothermal.... deep trench with culvert to draw in air, or drill down 5-10' and you'll have all the 60F temperature you need. Water to air heat pumps work best. They ain't cheap tho.
ive got a few burlap coffee bags from our local roaster. some have interesting art.... I hang them outside in front of all the windows i can get away with. amazing how much more effective "blinds" when placed between the sun and the "magnifying" glass! if i need them longer, for the sliding glass doors, just cut them and leave it sewn at the bottom, BAM, double length!
Joined: Jul 23, 2011
This is my first post. I'm a total newbie. This heat wave really sucks. I have veg flower beds on the hottest sides of my house. I had one really good year where a mix of very tall corn, sunflowers, and beans I ended up picking from the windows shaded the house.
I have earnestly tried to repeat this. The squirrels and birds however are on to me and have been helping themselves. I had to replant my corn as it didn't come up the first time, someone snacked. And the second batch of corn isn't even going to crop. Its three or four feet tall. I did have some unplanted self seeding sunflowers come up. Monsters thick as tree trunks and a good 12 to 14 feet tall. I was planning to save the seeds from the biggest one.
Of course the trunk of these sunflowers easily supports the weight of several squirrels, and so do the seed heads. The seeds didn't even ripen. They are all gone. And of course the squirrels are looking at me like they are starving and why didn't I put more out for them.
Next year I am going to try bloody butcher corn and more sunflowers. I might put something over the soil until everything comes up. Maybe a hoop structure, as the chickens think baby corn is yummy.
Joined: May 22, 2011
Sunflowers... just plant extra for the birds.
For new plantings: Try straw over the seeds to discourage birds... outta sight/outta mind. Maybe a cat?
Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
Planting extra sunflowers for the birds will just bring more birds. If you want to keep them, you'll have to put bags or netting over the heads as soon as the seeds start to develop.
Joined: Jul 23, 2011
LOL Maybe more squirrels as the birds didn't stand a chance this year. Has anyone actually bagged or netted their sunflower heads? I have odd visions of soggy paper bags flopping around up there. And how do I get up there? I can't actually think of anything that a squirrel or bird couldn't undo if it wanted to.
Unless I figure out how to sew a cloth sack with a draw string. And use a pole. I have the pole part from a neighbor who regularly discards bamboo on the curb. Me sewing could be a form of entertainment for anyone who cared to watch though.
There must be some no brainer solution that is too obvious for me to see.
Sprouting grains like quinoa can be just as good as cooking them and they work wonderfully as a substitute for couscous or Bulgar wheat. You can sprout lentils and other small legumes very well too, awesome in a salad of tomatoes, red onion and cucumber with mint, basil or dill. Corn is amazing raw, on the cob or off, no salt or grease required. If you eat meat cook a larger portion than usual and use the left overs sliced in salad the next day for a light, cool meal. I have cooked extra pasta and just rinsed it in hot water for another meal later on, I might even add cold sauce. The kids and I like this very much on a hot day.
Joined: Feb 28, 2010
Location: NW Arkansas
Lots of days over 100 this year. No AC. I do all of the above plus:
I cook in the morning only.
I cook rice and beans by bringing it to a boil and then sticking it in a cooler and cover it with thick towels (inside the cooler), where it is done cooking by dinner time.
I set up my camp stove in the detached garage/woodshop.
When watering, I turn the hose on my head.
I work outside in the morning and then come in around noon and sit in the tub of cold water.
I don't have any appliances (washer, dryer, vacuum, cookstove) except a fridge, which I only use in the summer.
I plan to get a little portable fridge/cooler that you can plug into the car battery, or the house, either one. I only need it for some veggies anyway or leftovers. The big fridge throws off a LOT of heat.
Because the house is heavily curtained, it is dark in there. I have an led camping light (a D-Light) that has a little solar panel, or you can plug it in to the wall.
All my bulk food stores (grains, beans, seeds, etc) are in trash cans in closets covered with sleeping bags or fabric. Sure miss the old food cellar. I don't have any food in the kitchen cabinets because it is too hot there. Some jars of food are in wine crates near the floor, which is cooler.
This whole system only works well when the night time temperatures go below 80 degrees, which it didn't do for a while there this summer. Any ideas? Rita
Joined: May 22, 2011
That's a lot of 'cool' things u do Rita. What kind of a small fridge were u thinking of getting that runs off a car battery?
One of the nice things about ot summers is that solar PV is a perfect match... front end costs are a bit hi, but hey for a 20+year life it's ok... and you can run a 12/24vdc fridge directly off the solar + controller w/o batteries. Freezing water bottles should tide it overnite.
Joined: Feb 28, 2010
Location: NW Arkansas
@winsol3 - If you google "travel cooler" you will see quite a variety of size and price. I tried making a zeer pot this summer, but the bigger pot was glazed on the outside, so it didn't work - it couldn't sweat. I am looking now for a big unglazed pot.
I focus on the lowest tech solution possible. I would prefer to have a small dedicated solar panel to charge my computer, for instance, when I can afford it. I may end up just going to the library for the internet. And the fridge - I think it will just have to go. Maybe I will eat only sprouts and fresh-picked things.
I am extremely low income, so I tend to cover pants in the winter with branches instead of building a greenhouse, which would then need ventilating, etc; plus, I avoid plastic.
subject: 20 ways to REALLY reduce your summer utility bills