The following how to overview on natural/passive heating and cooling is taken right from a guide I wrote on the subject available at www.agua-luna.com.
The History of Air-Conditioning
The Romans were the first that we know of to take advantage of the earth’s ability to heat and cool through its difference in temperatures. They built massive underground passive cooling aqueducts (today called Earth Tubes) by digging long trenches through their farm lands, lakes or ponds and barring or submerging clay pipes routed into the homes.
Most recently however, natural cooling was the norm for air-conditioning and refrigeration long before Freon was invented. Homes built in the Western United States for example, were specially located and constructed in micro climate locations with windows, doors and open spaces directed towards prevailing winds, made from high thermal mass earth elements such as brick, adobe, mud and rock. High rises and sky scrapers in major city’s such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco were originally built with deep windows preventing sun from directly shinning into the buildings as well as again taking advantage of high thermal mass materials, building walls thick.
Pioneers also took advantage of leathers natural ability to soak, hold and even wick water away, draping hides over windows and doors or flapped over an enclosed rock area. Kept moist with a slow drip, the leather would cause evaporative cooling to take place, creating air-conditioning and early refrigerators.
Quick note here, evaporative cooling is the tendency of the hotter dry air molecules to attach themselves to the wet cooler water molecules, instantly separating themselves from their liquid surroundings and releasing their heat while transforming to gas form cooling the environment.
During Egyptian times, springs, large indoor pools and fountains were used for both evaporative cooling and thermal mass collection cooling, not to mention the popular building style that we all know utilizing large blocks stacked in pyramids, which had incredible thermal mass properties; never mind how they moved the blocks during construction.
If we venture even further back through human history, we all know humans took up residency in climate controlled underground dwellings like caves and mounds. I get many clients and customers that want to become self sufficient and move off the grid, but “don’t want to live in a cave”. The fact is that if built correctly, cave or underground homes are more comfortable and cheaper to heat and cool then most cookie cutter homes that exist in suburbia today.
In our Mexico Hacienda we have a 10,000sqft underground home that maintains a constant 75ºF year round temperature, regardless of the fact that it’s above 110ºF everyday outside in the summer and 20ºF in the winter. This climate control is achieve for absolutely free, without the need for additional heating or cooling of any kind, natural or manmade, just by tapping into the earth’s thermal mass. $0 monthly fuel and utility costs, what could be better? Then there’s the earth’s insulation factor. With 300 foot thick walls, that’s like R19,000.
So why then did we abandon such extremely efficient methods?
Well, as our society “evolves” it feels the need to “improve” on old ways. We, as humans, think we can always build a better mousetrap then our predecessors. Strangely enough, history always repeats itself also, so we really only loop back on ourselves, merely reinventing the same mousetrap over and over again in the end.
We invent something, make it better, make it still better, replace that with a new invention, make that invention better, then realize that the first basic way was the best and go back to using it.
Where old practices such as bleeding or leeching patients were later thought as barbaric, doctors are now realizing to be more successful then “modern medicine”. They’re even starting to perform Shock Treatment (electroconvulsive theory) again. “Milk is good for you!” – “Milk is bad for you!” – “Milk is good for you!” “Alcohol is good for you!” – “Alcohol is bad for you!” – “Alcohol is good for you!” “Fats are good for you!” – “Fats are bad for you!” – “Fats are good for you!” “Red meat is good for you!” – “Red meat is bad for you!” – “Red meat is good for you!”
You see my point.
The “back to basic” movement always repeats itself, and the trendy term is currently experiencing an explosion of popularity in western countries, especially in countries such as Holland and Japan whom are simply just running out of farming land and thereby food supplies. Agricultural land used to grow crops to sustain the masses are being taken over by the growth of Super Cities, creating a need to go back to earlier times, acknowledging and incorporating old methods, again completing the loop. This means that many eastern and third world countries are finding themselves all of a sudden back in the trend, having never abandoned there traditional lifestyles all along.
Unfortunately the “advancement” of these technologies and the “evolution” of these humans only occur when there’s a problem such as high gas prices (the only time when renewable fuel interest grows, when gas prices drop so does the public talk on renewable fuels.) and don’t always come without their lessons, sacrifices and permanent scars.
When Freon was invented as a toxin substitute by Thomas Midgley, Jr in the 20th century, toxic gases such as ammonia, chloromethane and sulfur dioxide were then used as refrigerant. At the time Midgley and his peers weren’t aware that Freon itself was a toxin to our ozone layer, helping to eat an enormous hole into it. A nice gift from our predecessors for the generations to come.
On a side note, Freon also becomes a chemical weapon when heated to 400ºF. It converts to Phosgene gas commonly known as suffocating gas, made famous in World War I for its nostalgic smell of freshly cut grass, released just before killing its victims. Freon was later replaced with other “less harmful” hydrofluorocarbon based coolants such as R-134a in the 80’s which do not destroy the ozone, however they DO cause climate change by creating a haze like layer around the planet (the greenhouse effect), blocking the suns rays from shooting back out into space after bouncing off the earth, further heating the planet unnaturally (global warming).
Now let me address the people that like to call themselves Global Warming Non-believers. You’ve taken a stance based on a controversy that doesn’t exists or rather is non-debatable. Global Warming exists whether you believe in it or not, regardless of what Al Gore or The Inconvenient Truth says or doesn’t say. The difference is that we did not create Global Warming, but we are a rather large contributor to it. The fact is that the polar bear, whale, cute bunny rabbit, even the tree’s that you’re trying to save; all contribute to Global Warming. You see when everything dies, it releasing carbons and methane, both major causes of the greenhouse affect and Global Warming. So with or without humans Global Warming will exist. It’s a natural cycle and every planet goes through it into Global Cooling.
So again we must ask the question, “Why are we not abandoning these new “better” methods when there are older, and in fact better ways?”
The answer I believe lies in some of Darwin’s terms like “advancement” and “evolution”. I believe Darwin only had half the story right though (in this case the first half). Better fit is the theory of Human Deevolution.
Michael Cremo’s HUMAN DEVOLUTION: A VEDIC ALTERNATIVE TO DARWIN’S THEORY as well as Mike Judge’s Idiocracy both show overwhelming support for the theory that we’re in fact now evolving in reverse becoming dumber and dummer and domer (spelling intended).
In fact evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics says: “The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures.”
To put my two cents in, I think that the goblin like underclass will dwarf the intelligent elite vastly in numbers. My theory seems to fit with what’s accruing today:
First off intelligent people tend to only mate with other intelligent people and the same with the ignorant or non intelligent people who tend to only I should say reproduce with other non intelligent people. Which they do greatly, bringing me to my second point:
Non intelligent people tend to have babies in AND out of wedlock. The promise of devotion seems to have no comprehensible meaning to them. While intelligent people to cheat as well seem to be a bit more careful in having offspring with their brother in laws, bubba down the street and their husband’s best friend.
Intelligent people also usually wait to have children in their life, always making excuses like when we finally own the house, or you just got the new job, or after we take that trip we’ve always wanted to take; always pushing it off, while the ignorant don’t care one way or the other whether they can afford children or even if they’re married or even know the other person.
Quantity is another issue; intelligent people tend to only have 1 or 2 kids, barley replacing their own numbers, while the “dim-witted” tend to have several, they just keep popping them out, 3, 4, 5, 6 it doesn’t much matter.
When will this happen? Curry says that the human race will have reached its physical peak by the year 3000 and begin its decent once again, completing the loop yet another time. So you still have ‘some’ time, but we’re not going to be getting any smarter unless things are changed.
Now since I’ve just insulted all of my readers intelligent or not in this lengthy explanation of why we abandon such extremely efficient methods, let’s get to taking the firs step in re-implementing 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.