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Chapter 10 : Refrigeration and Heating

Heating and cooling the home is the largest utility expense. Hot water and refrigeration are the second and third most energy intensive expenses, for most people. This chapter digitally records old work with food storage and includes some economical observations about heating. The drawings have been reproduced from 1986 originals and the text is typed using a trusty old computer. The title section from the recently found original blueprint is reproduced as an image to provide a bit of sociological and temporal insight into the use of thermodynamics and entropy during the middle nineteen eighties.

The term Environomic Science Was a playful search for terms at a time when Ecological Economics and Sustainability were still in a formative stage. Confusing name demarcations remain to this day, environmental economics often describes attempts to put money values on natural beings or geographic features, for example.

Preliminary Notes (1986):

Natural cold storage utilizes the weight difference between warm and cold air, cold being the heavier. The simplest forms of natural cold storage cannot become colder than available low temperatures. Overnight lows are sufficient much of the time. Present day refrigerators are easily upgraded, they make ideal cabinets for natural cold storage (additional insulation is helpful). Many people have found, with a little practice, that simply opening an outside refrigerator door a crack, at night, and closing it in the day, provides adequate food storage convenience.

There is not enough money in circulation to measure the environmental benefits and economic savings which would accrue to world-wide use of natural cold storage for one generation. Ecological economics liberates tremendous wealth as externalized profits and at the same time relieves Nature of the burdens which accompany careless consumption. Justice with Nature is among the defining axioms of ecological economics.

The schematic above illustrates the simple system of using two pipes which allows the cool storage to be inside. The lower pipe is labeled "C" for cold air in. The upper pipe is labeled "W" for warm air out (labels not transferred to web yet, y6m6d18).

The reason this major resource saving crosses from pure economics into the broader notion of justice with the balance of nature is easier to see if one limits consideration to just the northern two thirds of north America, instead of trying to think about the entire planet at once. This area of has two distinct large economies, both enjoy cold winters. Part-time perfect for multi-trillion eco monetary unit savings using totally free cold.

Most families keep inside air temperature warmer during the winter than during the summer. This means that refrigerators must work to cool heated air, that's why they are called refrigerators. Cold winter air is heated to a warm tropical temperature, then the warm air is refrigerated back toward winter temperature. I find it somewhat surprising the word refrigerate is used so openly. Immortal corporations do not even bother with their usual double speak to hide the double income they gain by first selling their mortal customers warmth and, then, refrigerated cold. The double pollution of this gargantuan energy scheme is of no importance to immortals; clean air, water and dirt interest them only in terms of possible profit.

When outside air is colder/heavier than in the cool storage it will flow inward via the lower pipe and vent warmer air outward via the upper pipe.

Should the outside air be too dirty for direct use in cold food storage; place vertical copper pipes to channel bottom cold inlet air upward as it absorbs heat energy, from ripening fruits and vegetables or newly picked produce. If the air is good enough to use directly, be sure to place insect screens over the inlet and outlet fittings. Hose clamps or tape are both good. Be sure no sharp ends aim toward passing people and other animals.

Drill through wall to outside, or, replace near window pane with plywood and go through plywood, or, go through roof. The roof route requires more work yet does not attract bears.

Sure, part of this is slightly tongue-in-cheek. Still, it is true that some who chose to practice saving the world by placing the refrigerator outside have caught bear interest. One such friend had a very strong bear open the refrigerator on the hinge side rather then using the handle. There is always some risk in life; when one is working on a project which will yield more cash in people's hands than there is money on the entire planet, then all kinds of individuals are bound to show up. Bears are the least worrisome of the bunch.

Looking back into the not too distant past one may notice that parks were something that could be afforded, built and passed on to the future. Why could people who were not as advanced as people are today afford to build parks while the people today can't? Adding insult to injury, many of those people of the past were the traditional family structure, one bread-winner and one householder. Today's families must have everyone out working just to get by. Why? It's simple! People in the past did not pay immortals to heat air then refrigerate it. Route "B" was popular in the olden days.

How can that be? Plan B? Popular in the Olden Days?

"Not a totally illogical question," chortled Wise Old Owl, slowly winking one eye.

The answer is that a cool closet drew cooler air from under the structure or somewhere else via convection power raising upward; ultimately, out the roof. Cool closet shelves allowed air passage through nice wooden lattice work, this gave carpenters endless opportunity for beautiful work.

A simple closet door in the kitchen opened into a beautiful hardwood lattice of cool shelving, coldest at the bottom. I've seen it. I am an economist cognizant of the big bang; a Surfer of the Cosmos. This is written in the Dawn of the Age of Aquarius. No joke. People really did have more money when they weren't paying to refrigerate heated air. Having more money of course didn't guarantee happiness then any more than it does now. Be that as it may, cool closets were cool.

The nicest cool closet I've seen was built in the middle 1800's in Summerland, California. This is an area which grows avocados, oranges, guavas, bananas and even small pineapples. Interestingly, this area is also home to some of the more acute skepticism about using free cool to save the world. If the millions upon millions who now live in this gentle climate use free cold merely to assist conventional food cold storage, they will easily cancel over half of what they pay for refrigeration. Free cold instantly removes the need for several new power plants there, too.

Very little effort is needed to move cool air upward. Hot air leaving the attic provided the power in the olden days. The rising air pulled cool air upward through the lattice shelving in the cool storage closet. A small roof air heater is shown doing the work in a modern version of cool air route "B" in the preceding drawing.

Those who wish to begin enjoying historical economic freedoms by simply running cold air into the cooler through a pipe will use a hole saw to easily drill the 6 centimeter holes to accomodate pipes with a five centimeter inside diameter (2 3/8" hole for 2" pipe). Standard pipe insulation will keep the inlet air from warming on the way to cold storage. There are a million and one schemes to capture cool. A computer monitor can be used to open and close flap valves and turn micro fans on and off, for example. The simplest way to keep excess cold from freezing everything is a cap on the end of the pipes. An end cap with a small hole drilled in it is probably enough for locations with lots of available free cold.

Cold storage below the point of use is required where terrain is flat or where natural cold air drainage does not meet the needs of site location. An easily built flatland pit will fill with cold air and remove heat from a large quantity of stone. It is good to be sure that cold storage pits are kept away from septic and swampy areas.

Utilization of the downward airflow of natural cold air drainage is an excellent method because it actually captures extra available natural power from the air mass in motion. Stand in the bottom of a small air drain some evening. Feel the chill flow around and put on a coat. Imagine how many screaming air compressors it would take to move the equivalent airflow of even one small air drainage barranca. The compressors would need to be packed side-by-side and stacked on top of each other. Engine and compressor noise would be unbearable if one were close to feel the gentle airflow, that's how much power is drifting on the breeze. Eclectic environmental scientists struggle to capture every resource which doesn't hurt Mother Earth or her children.

The point when this huge energy source is no longer available is similar to what astrophysicists refer to an "event horizon," when they are discussing the point of no return around a black hole. The gigantic black hole in the center of our galaxy is something like a three dimensional version of cold air sinking toward sea level. High states of information or physical organization contain vibrant energy ripe for picking in concentrated tributaries, until the event horizon is reached.

This chapter is titled Heating and Cooling and only brief mention has been made to passive solar heating, which is a complete ecological economics subject that can be studied and specialized in as a career. It is very wise to research and read about passive heating before building a house, or any structure. Perhaps an additional chapter will be added here in the future. Cooling of the entire structure can be adapted from what has been discussed about food storage. Ferrocement curvature strength perfectly fits solar seasons and daily path. Excess heat can be gathered and used to power fresh-air-in.

If there is anything at all in this book which is going to be useful to the home builder, it is these next few words: Use an intake duct to bring combustion air from the outside directly into the fireplace or wood stove. Five centimeter pipe (2") will carry plenty of air to the fire, 2 1/2" pipe may be better for distances greater than one pipe length. Extra pipes and a valve system can be used to bring cold air from floor level in a far room, this forces the warm air into the area where cold air has been removed.

Carbon monoxide warning devices are always a good idea, regardless of what is being burned to heat the structure. Bringing outside air directly to the combustion area eliminates the cold air entering under doors or around windows, etc. Though this eliminates cold air coming into the structure to replace that going up the chimney, that cold air is also fresh air. Fresh air is healthy, it flushes dust, mold spores and germs as it also dilutes any carbon monoxide leakage into the living area.

The drawings in this chapter were completed in 1986 under the job name of National Security in the hope that natural cooling would replace nuclear power and thus help cut down on radio-active pollution. These words are being written twenty years later. This is a hard time, when old nuclear power plants which were about to be retired are instead being sold to new owners who then are given permission to upgrade to 120% power. Radio-active exhaust gasses are being ignored once again.

Full utilization of this chapter is sufficient to replace electrical output from 50 - 100 nuclear power plants in central north america alone. The annual air pollution from this number of nuclear power plants is equal to the total radiological power in the radioactive materials required to manufacture 500 to 1000 atomic bombs per year. (Though this is a big number, there is no proof it is a problem).

Veracity Check : Ferrocement.com operates world-wide in twelve languages, it maintains a balanced international policy. National labs all over the world have been queried periodically to determine if any new inventions have reduced radioactive exhaust from nuclear power. Though some have pointed out that coal contains uranium and burning coal sends more radio-active pollution into the air than nuclear power, the magnitude of these pollution numbers have not been updated to this day. Natural cold use is a good idea no matter where the electricity comes from, plus, it saves on money and ordinary pollution as well.

Anyone meditating while building a ferrocement structure with a very long future will eventually have this chapter data in their quiver of knowledge. There is no point in building for the future if that future does not include humans. Few worry about problems that sounds bigger than they are, until concentration in the food chain is considered, and, sure, something sentient like the human specie will evolve back into being as soon as pollution levels taper back to where a super complex being can exist, but, frankly, even well-cured ferrocement may not last that long.

Ferrocement contributes notions of permanence to free thinking, even in a modern consumer cultures. If you are planning to work hard to ensure survival of your structure then let your ferrocement job description grow surprisingly broad in scope. If you don’t care much about the future then forget free-form ferro. Longevity is a big deal in free-form ferrocement. It is the long passage of time which eventually brings a huge audience across your patient ferro threshold to appreciate your cozy, warm, peaceful home.

This solar hot water heater is as simple as can be made. I built one like this out of salvaged water pipe which I painted black and set on a piece of old plywood, under an old window a friend had rescued from demolition. The idea was to find out the lowest possible solar hot water technology. These patched togeather scraps worked very well, for over fifteen years.

Cooler water, being heavier, flows out the bottom of the tank to the bottom of the heat absorber. Sun heats the water and it rises to the top of the tank. I once returned home to find a neighborhood child teaching other children by feeling the warmth at different points in the cycle.

Notes on storage of heat and cold under the house:

Modern knowledge and considerations of mold growth present important cautions to utilization of stone mass for cold storage under the house. Although water is superior for storage and also has a greater storage capacity per unit of volume, use of passive space heating and solar heating of circulating air are low technology and economical. Rising fuel costs will soon return the temporarily old-fashioned energy saving and storage schemes in this chapter to their pre oil-age prominance. Use this drawing to contemplate energy storage below the structure.

Many concerned people are organizing to promote local energy conservation plans for their communities. There is a great need for this effort as both practice for a new and stronger form of democracy and practical independence from unending comflict over scarce non-renewable energy sources, as-well-as saving the large amount of money that can stay in the community rather than being sent to huge corporations profiting from poisonous pollution.

Practice with local democratic decision making around community energy use can grow to compare with, say, the local politics of aqueduct maintenance and use as practiced by the Native Americans of New Mexico. Such grass-roots democratic decision making focuses intellectual power of seemingly isolated individuals into strong local governments concerned with real human and natural impacts. When the day comes that we are able to pause and perhaps rest from emergency effort to save the planet, we will see that we have also built the first model of a truly sustainable culture, democratic decision making prowess will have grown considerably as it has decentralized and become more rational.

The easiest capture of solar energy is hot water, solar heated air and passive capture through the design of new structures which themeselves act to gather the heat of solar power are also efficient as well as technically feasible for almost everyone. Community efforts to organize and contribute to a sustainable future are often side-tracked into frustrating discussion by attempting to provide electricity from solar or wind power. Although solar and wind generated electricity are important ways to add new electrical output, conservation of power use remains the most economical.

Collecting solar heat in cold climates cuts energy consumption and does not require an alternative energy source or complex analysis of a sometimes bewildering array of competing technological solutions.

If technical expertise and capital are available after natural and freely available heat and cold have been found and used everywhere possible, then strong communities may find it is economically feasible to invest in community electric power generation facilities using solar, wind, waves or new river generation technologies that do not require dams.

I have often thought of removing economic muses from this manual, each time I am reminded that the subject of housing as a basic human necessity of equal importance with clean air and water. Additionally, economics remains part of the text because the construction techniques examined yield housing that pays for itself and can easily be designed to fit the needs of those who are economically stressed. Though at first glance refrigeration may seem to diverge a from analysis of ferrocement home construction, consideration of the subject will be important during the design process. “The most energy-intensive segment of the food chain is the kitchen. Much more energy is used to refrigerate and prepare food in the home than is used to produce it in the first place. The big energy user in the food chain is the refrigerator, not the farm tractor. While oil dominates the production end of the food system, electricity dominates the consumption end. With higher energy prices, the modern food system that evolved when oil was cheap will not survive as it is now structured.”* If you build for the very long future, the economic and cultural horizon are important to consider.

*Plan B 3.0 p 36, Lestor R. Brown, 2008