Managing my low-energy house: II. Features needing attention

Photo of clear-story area with winter sun and a fan

Clear-story fan set for winter

This post, and the companion post I. Features needing no attention were posted originally to a forum of the Alternative Technology Association (See Note below.)

My low-energy house at Manilla, NSW, maintains year-round comfort in a climate of daily and seasonal extremes. In the climate classification of the Building Code of Australia, it is in Zone 4: “Hot dry summer, cool winter”, along with Tamworth, Mildura and Kalgoorlie.
This house differs from most houses in relying on the design of the house to achieve comfort, with hardly any energy needed for heaters or coolers.
There is little artificial control: the “home automation system” consists only of timers set twice a year. Some of the comfort features call for daily action in certain seasons. However, these simple daily chores could have been avoided by small changes in the design. [But see “Note added 2016.”]

The success of the house in maintaining comfort in all seasons is shown by scatter-plots of daily indoor and outdoor maximum and minimum temperatures over a period of three years.

Features re-set twice a year

Dates for re-sets

For part of each year, the Manilla climate is too hot for comfort, and for the rest it is too cold. Some house features are re-set twice a year, making a “winter regimen” and a “summer regimen”. At first, I set the change-over dates near the equinoxes, 20th March and 22nd September. For simplicity I changed on 1st April and on 1st October. Later, I found it better to change on 1st March and 1st November, because the time when the climate is too hot is shorter than the time when it is too cold.

Motorized curtains

Curtains fitted to five north-facing windows, and a shutter fitted to a sun-porch window, should be opened to admit winter sun and closed at night to trap the heat. In summer they should be closed by day to keep out radiant heat and opened at night to allow heat to radiate out. The curtains and the shutter have motors controlled by a programmable timer (at lower right in the photo). In autumn (1st March), the timer is set to open at 07:40 and close at 17:20 daily. In spring (1st November) the timer is set to open at 18:00 and close at 06:00 (Standard Time).

Clear-story windows and fans

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