Practice what we preach: summer shade, shade, shade

Proof that we are solar active, not passive, at Jigsaw. This is a picture of my house this morning when I left at 9am. The house faces almost due north (one of the major reasons we bought it). I’ve written this blog to inspire you to take action on things that don’t have to cost a fortune but can make a BIG difference to your comfort level and energy bills.

External shading to stop sun striking glass and outdoor areas

  • external blinds on upper eastern windows (no eastern windows on ground floor – one removed during renovation), external awning ground floor western window (no western windows on upper floor)
  • cantilevered umbrellas reduce sun hitting the upper eastern terrace and northern deck. Reducing the heat/light reflected/radiated through glazing (and stopping my pot plants from cooking!)
  • eave to north protecting northern ground floor windows from sun strike (in contrast, see how the lovely winter sun penetrates, providing free heating, in earlier blog titled ‘Solar House Day – bus tour’on 18/8/13)
  • electric (remotely operated), insulated, metal roller blinds protecting upper northern windows from sun strike BUT the one on the left is broken! (aagggh).
  • deciduous trees provide additional, beautiful shade. Large existing trees to the right (one off screen) particularly good for reducing afternoon sun. We’ve planted 2 different deciduous trees between driveway and deck to provide lovely easterly shade (in 10 years!)
  • the deck area outside the south western glass sliding door (back right hand corner – you can’t see itin pic) has a permanent shading structure to stop nasty late afternoon summer sun.

My house has no mechanical cooling other than ceiling and pedestal fans.
On Tuesday when the external maximum was 36, the internal max downstairs in the house was 25.3 and upstairs 27.5. Overnight it cooled down to 20.9 downstairs and 23.2 upstairs. It felt lovely – with the ceiling fans on, our bodies felt like they were at a very comfy 23 degrees. We used 11 kWh of energy for the entire day (9 am to 9 am). The average daily consumption for 4 person household in Canberra is 24.4kWh, but I am sure it was much higher than that on Tuesday!
Yesterday, when the external maximum was 40, the internal max downstairs in the house was 26.5 and upstairs 32 (ouch!). Overnight it cooled down to 21.7 downstairs and 24 upstairs. We used 12kWh for the entire day (9 am to 9 am).

Upstairs is far from perfect – because of the cape cod/cut-roof construction nearly half of the upper northern walls are just gyprock, narrow gap and tiled roof… which cops the full brunt of the summer sun. We have insulated this space so it does better than it used to but unavoidably a fair bit of heat penetrates. The dormer windows also used to be completed uninsulated and we have retrofitted them with recycled polystyrene insulation (Insulbloc) which has made a big difference. Prior to the retrofit (or re-Jig as I like to call it) it was not possible for the kids to sleep upstairs even with fans (real danger of cooking them). Now they can snooze happily (mind you, I’m a fair bit happier still in my downstairs bedroom where I don’t even need a fan!).

Yes, the temp is continuing to creep up but I am stoked that my house, like all Jigsaw houses, which are predominantly designed for passive heating over Canberra’s winter (because we use a lot more energy for heating than cooling in the ol’ capital) is really coping quite well with a pretty scorching test.

I’d love to know how your own house is fairing?

You can read more about cost-effective ways to reduce your home’s energy consumption in a case study project that I did with the ACT Government on low income housing. See earlier blog post titled ‘Efficiency for those who need it most’ posted on 7/9/13