Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coal or passive heat -- hmmm?


or this?

Two stories in the New York Times focus on home energy. In Germany, architects and engineers have been working on building passive houses, with no furnaces. They work because the homes are insulated to the point that heat from appliances and bodies is all that it takes to keep things snug. Instead of a furnace, a heat exchanger is the only equipment needed. Fresh air coming into the house is heated by the stale air going out.

In Germany, the added cost of building a passive house is about 5 - 7% according to the NYT article. However, that cost would rise in the US because the heat exchangers and special window and door units are not on the shelves at Lowe's or anywhere else. And another problem for acceptance of this kind of house in the US is the fact that they are built on the small side, the usual allocation is of 500 sq feet per person per house. Americans are obsessed with more space to house more stuff, rather than focusing on energy efficiency.

So what is the growing trend in terms of home heating here in the US? According to the other article in the NYT -- it's coal. Yep, people are buying coal furnaces and loading up on anthracite. And breathing in all kinds of particulates. Lovely. Be sure to check out the picture of the happy coal family -- dad loading up the furnace with coal while mom tosses baby into the particulate laden air.

Meanwhile, a guy in Berkeley, CA is attempting to build a passive home, but the green certification folks won't give him credit for using the heat exchanger -- too exotic or beyond their comprehension? And in Akron, as you drive past all the new housing developments being built for folk with low to working class incomes, imagine what a boost you could give those people by building housing that essentially provides all their heating needs at no cost once the house is built. And of course, think of the jobs that could be created by manufacturing the necessary passive window and door structures, plus the heat exchangers right here in the USA.

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