After four years of writing about green building in Greenville, South Carolina and not getting feedback from one success story, it appears this is a lost cause. The Rocky Mountain Institute writes: “Seventy percent of whole home performance customers cited comfort as a reason for their upgrade.” Most Americans apparently do not care much about energy efficiency and reducing threats to their planet. They want to be comfortable, so it is time for a new approach.
What is the job of your home? It should provide comfortable shelter free from outdoor elements and noises and enhance your health. You must be able to afford it without having to do a lot of maintenance on it. The main goal for a comfortable house is to get the envelope so that its interior wall surfaces are as close to your skin temperature as possible which will minimize skin heat loss to the walls. Start with insulation and windows before discussing the heating and cooling system.
If you increase the insulation in your homes, you can delight in higher Mean Radiant Temperatures (MRTs) during cold weather and lower MRTs in hot weather. This means you will not be too hot or too cold. Should you tire of a continuous state of comfort and require a change from comfortable, you can always go outside for a bit to become overheated or chilled.
If you tighten up your building, you will lessen those cold drafts, noise, bad smells, and polluted air from sneaking into your indoor air. It will be more comfortable, quieter, and have healthier air to breathe.
If you use windows sparingly and improve them so they will not feel like radiators in the hot summer months and open freezers in the winter ones, you will be more comfortable. Windows are never as good as a wall. They can be coated so that glare can be reduced to make watching television easier and to prevent solar radiation from ruining your furnishings and fading your colors. It will destroy less of your property and be more comfortable too.
If you purchase the right heating and cooling system, the most expensive part to buy, power, and maintain, you will not need extras like smart thermostats and vents. Engineer Robert Bean, who recently began publishing the idea of selling comfort instead of energy efficiency, says thermal comfort is “a condition of mind that expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment and is assessed by subjective evaluation.” Your feeling of comfort depends on your skin’s thermal sensors and your brain.
British architect Elrond Burrell details the good envelope design of Passive Houses, also known as Passivhaus:
“Insulation, lots of it, but it varies according to where you live;
Glazing, good quality windows, triple glazed in the North;
Shading, to take into account the power of the sun to overheat our homes;
Airtightness, so that we are not throwing all that energy away through cracks and holes and not getting drafts from them, and finally
Ventilation in a controlled and calculated manner so that we are getting fresh air and circulation all year round.”
The Passive House design requires hardly any heat and, in some parts of the Greenville area, no air conditioning. It is definitely key to ensure that the building envelope is correct because getting a heating and cooling system right for comfort is difficult. HVAC design only has to meet the minimum building code requirements which may not meet your physical comfort needs. Whereas indoor climate engineering is occupant focused, HVAC engineering focuses on the building.
Air temperature alone is not a valid, accurate indicator of thermal comfort or stress. Other factors are relative humidity, air velocity, your activity rate and clothing level. Read the healthy heating website
for a more detailed explanation of thermal comfort and a thermal comfort calculator to explore. One key point is that the home, no matter how comfortable you consider it, must be approved for local building codes. Watch the attached video about a Virginia couple who was evicted from their tiny home which they found extremely comfortable, especially since it only cost $2,500 and was mortgage-free.
Contact Green Heating and Cooling of SC, 864.234.7442;
Heating and Cooling Greenville SC, 864.320.6719;
Carolina Heating Service Inc., 800.261.0359;
Aire Serv of Upstate South Carolina, 864.236.4328 for help with thermal comfort in the Greenville, South Carolina region.