How-To DIY: Natural/Passive Heating & Cooling Part 2

How-To DIY: Natural/Passive Heating & Cooling Part 2

The following how to overview on natural/passive heating and cooling is taken right from a guide I wrote on the subject available at

How to Measure Hot and Cold

To be technically precise, I should mention upfront that the term “cold” has no definition of its own and is a truly false notion in the mind of all humans as well as the English language. The thought that cold is an object or a condition of the state of an object is in fact fake. For example, to say that you are cold is not true at all because cold is only the lack or loss of heat. So then in the strictest sense of the term, you can’t actually be cold, you’re just not warm.

Now most of you will swear that this isn’t right, that you ARE indeed cold, or something IS cold to the touch, especially those of you who hate the ‘cold’. Yet I assure you, all there is is heat. You in fact do have heat in your body when you profess to be cold, though it may be low. So you can’t say you’re cold, but I COULD say you’re warm. The object you’re touching also has heat, so you can’t say it’s cold, but again I could say it’s warm and I could then measure the heat in it with a thermometer, but you could not measure the cold. If you or it truly was cold and did not have any heat, you wouldn’t be alive or be able to touch it without loosing your entire hand.

Let me explain…

We measure and define cold as how much or rather how much an object lacks heat (how fast the atoms are moving) in any given space. For example if it’s 50ºF outside, one may say it’s cold outside, but this isn’t actually true. It’s actually 50ºF warm outside as 50º indicates that there is actually heat in the air, 50º worth. Personally if one really must prove that ‘cold’ does exists, I would say that anything at or below -459.67ºF (-273.15ºC) could be defined as cold, or rather heat is non existent. This is referred to as Absolute 0 or 0º Kelvin and in fact at this temperature there is still minute traces of heat present, however this heat is too small to continue molecular motion. In other words, all things stop at 0ºK. Now That’s Cold!

Humans on the other hand, feel or refer to being hot or cold based on temperate differences up or down from their base body core temperature of 98.7ºF. So if the outside ambient air temp is 99ºF we feel warm, if it’s 97ºF, we feel cool. Now you may say you still feel warm at 97ºF, and you may, but the body doesn’t feel warm, it’s just the mind, a personal preference if you will or it may also be that your clothes are insulating you and actually driving up your body temperature above 98.7ºF, creating a false notion.

You’ll know when the body feels warm or cool, when it initiates or stops the body’s cooling and warming process. This is triggered by any fluctuations of a fraction of a degree up or down from 98.7ºF, causing the speed at which calories are destroyed in order to raise body temperatures or to open sweat glands in the skin releasing water through the pores, cooling the skin down via evaporative cooling (Natural Cooling).

The human body is actually designed for colder temperatures more so then hotter. When ever I mention this fact in seminars, folks residing in cold climates or states that are currently experiencing their winter, rumble and moan, obviously sick of the cold; which is funny in itself… Have you ever noticed that during the winter everyone complains that it’s too cold and that they can’t wait until summer arrives? Then when the hot summer months come, they say it’s too hot and can’t wait until the winter comes. Back and forth back and forth. But to stop from being sidetracked, to prove the above statement is correct, we can conduct a simple verbal experiment:

Since the human body operates most comfortably at 98.7ºF, if a human was placed in say a 10ºF lower air temperature (90ºF) it wouldn’t feel too uncomfortable, some may even say ‘pleasant’, even though it’s ‘colder’ then our core temp.

Now say that same person was placed in 110ºF air temps (10ºF higher), he/she would start feeling very uncomfortable right off the bat.

20º differences? That would be 80ºF on the down side, which is very nice, we actually prefer 80ºF to our own warmer body temperature, which in itself should say something for how the body is designed for cooler temps, but let’s continue anyway…

120ºF on the up side? Not good. Organs inside the body actually start shutting down and we haven’t even gotten started yet.

30º? Which is 70ºF on the down side. Excellent, very comfortable indeed, but at 130ºF on the up side, the water in the body actually starts boiling, slow cooking the meat like a turkey in its own skin. Mmm Yummy!

For the sake of time let’s jump a bit to 50º differences. That would be 50ºF on the down side, a little cool but still not to bad, jacket time for most as opposed to immediate 3rd degree burns at 150ºF on the up side.

We can continue on down to 32ºF on the down side, where the skin experiences no real physical problem exposed in short durations, but on the high side of the spectrum, at 164ºF (65º fluctuations from body temp) the body is really really bad off now if you’re not already dead.

At 0ºF on the low side we can still survive with only 3rd and 4th degree frost bite. At 200ºF on the high side the human would die within seconds of exposure. See below table.

We’ve gone from minimal hot and cold fluctuations of body temperature to 100º differences in this verbal exercise and at each step of the it has been shown that the human body prefers the cold side above the hotter side when compared side by side.

So let’s here no more complaining about 50º temperatures, would you rather be in 150º weather?

So what can we do then naturally, to transform the outside ambient air temperatures to well below 98.7ºF in our home, in order to maintain the same comfort level as our reverse ATM machine (the AC) provides for us?

Actually, we don’t need to do anything. Miraculously enough the earth has already done everything for us, but most westerners don’t incorporate the earth into their homes and ignorantly think it’s crazy to do so. We’re always trying to fix something that isn’t broke and are arrogant enough to think that we know more then the earth or the creator do. For example, digging down just a few feet into the earth, provides temperature differences up or down of 10 degree from the outside ambient air and evaporative cooling accurse everyday all over the planet.

THIS is called passive heating and cooling and if you live in northern United States or Canada where winter temps get down to 0, you’d want to tap into the earths natural thermal warmth by installing a passive heating/cooling system a few meters down, bringing your homes temperature to a nice 70ºF. In Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, where temps average around 100ºF daily, we’d need only to install our passive heating/cooling system a few feet down to get our homes temp to around 70ºF.

Confused Yet?

Heat is transferred in 3 ways:

  1. Conduction, Is similar to radiation, where hot or cold atoms heat or cool other hotter or colder similar atoms, like rock to rock, however, the difference is that the atoms or objects need to be touching.
  2. Radiation, Or thermal radiation is an electromagnetic transfer of energy from one atom to another or one object to another. The 2 objects don’t need to be touching but rather travel on a wave as seen in microwaves, infrared waves or even light waves radiating from a light bulb.
  3. Convection, Is the transfer of heat by moving the heated molecules from one area to another, as seen when replacing cold water with hot water or by replacing the cold air in the room with hot.

Natural heating and cooling works well, because as mentioned in the above example, the soil or dirt reacts not only as an insulator, but as a thermal mass at the same time, continuously moving heat in or out (heating or cooling) in all 3 of the above listed ways.

Imagine an ice chest. The ice chest not only insulates itself, keeping heat or cold inside or outside of itself, but on a delay also absorbs heat and/or cold from the outside and storages it for several days for later use.

In this same way, the earth absorbs and storages the heat from the hottest part of the day and radiates it back out during the coolest part of the night with about a 12 hour delay. So if you were to dig down say a foot into the earth during the hottest hours of the day and measured the temperature with a thermometer, you’d actually be reading the temperature from the coldest hours of the previous night and vise versa.

All that’s left then is to (in its simplest form) turn on a fan and blow the cool air, for example, in during the hottest part of the day, while shutting the fan off at night, letting the earth dissipate its heat into the night sky during the coldest part of the night. In this way we get night time cold air, day and night for natural cooling or day time heat day or night, for natural heating. This process of incorporating the earths natural heating and cooling is called Thermal Mass Heating or Thermal Mass Cooling.

Before we start digging into the earth, designing and building passive systems, let’s discuss where these systems evolved from so we can understand their most basic functions as well as the physics behind them.

Check out the next part of the guide next week.

And don’t forget to pick up a copy Dan Martin’s newest book: Apocalypse, How to Survive a Global Crisis, available in bookstores now.

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