No Furnaces, But Not Called Whackos

Many thanks to Brushfire for sending over this article from today’s NY Times, about “passively” heated houses being built in cold climates with no furnace at all. These people I think I could get along with. Of course, as usual, they are mostly not in this country.

I have a few disagreements with some of the author’s statements, mainly in regard to the feasibility of living furnace-free in a house that was not designed for it. They envision this experience as “wearing thick pullovers, turning the thermostat down and putting up with drafts.” I’ve found that with a little retro-fitting of my own self (physiologically and psychologically) I don’t need much in the way of “thick pullovers”. And as I wrote before, there are actually far fewer drafts in a house that is purposefully kept colder. And since I do, actually, kind of “treasure an experience like drinking hot chocolate in a cold kitchen”, it’s possible that “the houses may be too radical” for me (?!?). They also mention that these passive designs would fail “on an urban street with no south-facing wall”– to which I say, baloney. You’ll just not be quite as warm. You won’t freeze.

Human nature being what it is, though, the future is unlikely to be in re-acquainting ourselves with the feasibility of living in cooler houses. It is more likely to be in using new technology to keep us at the level of comfort to which we have grown accustomed.

This summarizing part of the article I agree with wholeheartedly:

“…those who want passive-house mansions may be disappointed. Compact shapes are simpler to seal, while sprawling homes are difficult to insulate and heat. Most passive houses allow about 500 square feet per person, a comfortable though not expansive living space. Mr. Hasper said people who wanted thousands of square feet per person should look for another design. ‘Anyone who feels they need that much space to live,’ he said, ‘well, that’s a different discussion.’ “

I still say cold = too big. I’m living in 1300 sq ft per person (not counting Cat as a person), but it’s more than I need– when my new housemate arrives tomorrow, that will drop down to 650. Before you tell me you can’t live without heat, tell me how many square feet you’re living in…

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