Air Conditioning A Zero Energy Home

People are thinking about the environmental impact of their homes and lives. This has led to an increase in building styles that work to minimize economic impact. The ultimate choice in green building practices is a zero energy building, which generates more power than it uses. Since air conditioning is such a huge part of a home's summer energy usage, it needs to be a focus in the design considerations.

The quickest way to eliminate the outside power needed to run your HVAC system is to power it with green energy sources such as wind or solar. Combining solar with an air conditioner has an interesting effect. One of the major issues with solar energy is that it generates most of its power in the middle of the day, when few people are home. However, this is also the time when your air conditioning needs are at their highest. This makes a solar powered air conditioner a good use of the technology. Rather than trying to invest in batteries to store excess power, you can cool tanks of water to cool the house in the evening when the sun is no longer shining.

Geothermal power has a very interesting place in zero energy buildings. If your budget is big enough, you can see if there is a geothermal hot spot somewhere below your property. If so, pipes run down to the hot spot can be used to generate electricity. However, even if you don't have a hot spot, you can take advantage of the temperatures deep beneath the surface. A few feet below the surface, the temperature rarely changes. Feeding water cooled to that temperature into a heat pump creates an HVAC system that is extremely efficient. This can help you multiply the effect that your solar power generation has on the temperature inside your house.

Reducing Your Cooling Needs

Another way to reduce the amount of energy you have to use to cool your home is to reduce the amount of heat energy that it absorbs in the first place. There are several methods that can assist you in this process.

  • Using trees to shade your home is the traditional method of reducing the amount of sunlight and heat that reaches your house. This is a viable option if you are installing your solar panels elsewhere in the yard, but if you want them on the roof then it creates competing goals.
  • Even if you need to allow sunlight in to generate electricity, you can still reduce the amount of heat your house absorbs. Opt for light colored roofing and siding materials. These colors will naturally absorb less heat, keeping your house cool.
  • Use curtains or solar films to reduce the amount of heat coming in through your windows. Solar films will be particularly useful, as they allow in all of the natural light, and only block the infrared and ultraviolet rays that produce heat but are not within the visible spectrum.

Take Advantage of Evaporative Cooling

You have personally experienced evaporative cooling in the form of sweat. As water evaporates, it naturally cools the surrounding air. You can actually purchase small, single room coolers that take advantage of this off the shelf. Larger systems for homes are still rare and have their issues, but not all hope is lost. Before electricity, these systems were created by putting a large pool of water either beneath the home or in a central courtyard. By allowing the air to circulate up through the building naturally, it would work to cool the building.

Zero energy homes are still a new concept, and this makes them harder to build. As you work towards this goal, persevere. As this option becomes more popular, technology will be created to make this a far more attainable goal.