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Old 07-07-2010, 09:37 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Most effiecient shape of a house?

I'm just thinking about what homes are more efficient = less costly to keep heatd/cooled?
Is a 2-storey the worst?
Would a single story with a full sized basement be that much better?

I know windows are pretty bad insulators, so the smaller and fewer the better...

I currently have a 2-storey that seems to be VERY expensive in terms of utilities, gas, water and electricity, but I think that is more a function of how expensive EVERYTHING is in Alberta as opposed to other provinces...


EDIT: I should note my house is only 5 years old, so you wouldassume that it would be quite efficient. However, it was built during a recent housing boom that is still going on, adn I'm pretty sure the contractors rushed everything, and cut every corner possile.
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:40 AM   #2 (permalink)
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My raised ranch seems pretty efficient. Faces north (sucks ass in the winter), tons of shade, reasonable size 950SF up, 450 finished down. Basement/garage is very chilly, utilities are reasonable I think as well.

I need to get some insualtion blown in the attic before this winter.

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Old 07-07-2010, 09:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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One stories seem to be less costly to air condition.

The following tends to help:

1. Ceiling fans
2. Foil Radiant Barrier (tech shield or retro fit)
3. Thick attic insulation
4. Properly sized/balanced AC system
5. Shaded or double pane windows with non-metal frames
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:44 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Adam Blaster View Post
I'm just thinking about what homes are more efficient = less costly to keep heatd/cooled?
Is a 2-storey the worst?
Would a single story with a full sized basement be that much better?

I know windows are pretty bad insulators, so the smaller and fewer the better...

I currently have a 2-storey that seems to be VERY expensive in terms of utilities, gas, water and electricity, but I think that is more a function of how expensive EVERYTHING is in Alberta as opposed to other provinces...

i grew up in/ parents still live in a 2 story, 1500sqft house that uses a max 2 cords of wood per year as its only heat, and has no cooling.

south facing lower story is 95% double pane glass, red brick floors, large eave on lower story.

in the summer the sun never hits the brick due to the eave. in the winter it shines on the brick almost the whole width of the hosue and heats it up.

wood burning stove is a design my dad came up with, and built 25 years ago.

when he built the house it didnt pass final inpection because there was only a single heat source in the place. he went and bought electric baseboard heaters and screwed them to the wall in every room. not a single one of them has ever been wired.

its is one of the most efficient houses i've ever been in.
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:44 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I would think a single story fully above ground would be the worst. A two-story should be better, with a basement better yet. Best would be underground I guess.
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:44 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I would think "shape" has very little to do with it.

The MOST efficient home is a cave that stays at 72*F year round, uses LED lighting at night, and solar tube lighting during the day.
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:46 AM   #7 (permalink)
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.

The MOST efficient home is a cave that stays at 72*F year round, uses LED lighting at night, and solar tube lighting during the day.

^^ this. i had a buddy growing up who's parents had built a 2500sqft underground home.

it was ALWAYS comfortable in that joint.
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:47 AM   #8 (permalink)
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i have a earth contact home and love it
we do not need to turn the AC on till mid june
the winter month are cooler but we like a cooler house


saying mid june around here most will go from heat to AC
we have from late march to mid june with nothing running
and from late sep to first of oct to mid nov with nothing running
it would be hard to move out of a eath contact home (been here 8 years now)
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Two story rectangular house with a single, standard gable roof would be the most efficient for a lot of reasons:

1. Every corner in a foundation costs you in terms of at least labor, and usually materials.

2. Stacked plumbing reduces materials and labor.

3. Shorter electrical runs.

4. Smaller roof, and again, every new surface costs you.

5. Way more energy efficient. Heat rises so warm the first floor in the winter and cool the second floor in summer. The other space gets conditioned semi-for-free. Smaller actic means there's less heat gain/loss.

If you really want to get efficient you could build what I did. A 325 sq. ft. tiny house (although I got fancy and made two roofs):



It has a kitchen/eating area, laundry room, bathroom, sleeping loft, and storage (over the door, left side of photo). Its hydronically heated by the same water heater used in the sink.
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:07 AM   #10 (permalink)
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The most efficiently shaped house is a cube, as it defines the largest possible interior volume with the smallest possible exterior surface area (barring any crazy round or shperical shapes, which are typically impractical for a home, unless your'e a yurt fan)

The deeper you can bury your cube, the better, since earth is a great insulator.

If you take exception to living inside a Hellraiser cube, you're next best bet is to first seal and then insulate your home. I live in a converted summer home that was 1300 SF and had friggin foil backed R3 in the walls. I spent $350/mo in january to heat the place. 2 years ago we gutted the drywall, added real insulation, sealed houe wrap and added 900 SF by way of a second floor. these day's I'm miffed if my heating bill exceed $200/mo, which has only happened once, and that was when my BiL crashed with us and abused our thermostat for 6 weeks straight.
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:09 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Easy to maintain but melts when it rains. Luckily I can just re-shape it at the end of the storm and the neighbors think I put an addition on.

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Old 07-07-2010, 10:14 AM   #12 (permalink)
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no cubes...

geodesic domes are the shit.

heater in the middle with a fan on the ceiling and a loft.
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:52 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toywelder View Post
i have a earth contact home and love it
we do not need to turn the AC on till mid june
the winter month are cooler but we like a cooler house


saying mid june around here most will go from heat to AC
we have from late march to mid june with nothing running
and from late sep to first of oct to mid nov with nothing running
it would be hard to move out of a eath contact home (been here 8 years now)
and QUIET.


EDIT: pics? Do you have earth roof, or just 3 walls like a walkout basement?
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:53 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Screwzer2 View Post
Two story rectangular house with a single, standard gable roof would be the most efficient for a lot of reasons:

1. Every corner in a foundation costs you in terms of at least labor, and usually materials.

2. Stacked plumbing reduces materials and labor.

3. Shorter electrical runs.

4. Smaller roof, and again, every new surface costs you.

5. Way more energy efficient. Heat rises so warm the first floor in the winter and cool the second floor in summer. The other space gets conditioned semi-for-free. Smaller actic means there's less heat gain/loss.

If you really want to get efficient you could build what I did. A 325 sq. ft. tiny house (although I got fancy and made two roofs):



It has a kitchen/eating area, laundry room, bathroom, sleeping loft, and storage (over the door, left side of photo). Its hydronically heated by the same water heater used in the sink.
nice yurt.
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:56 AM   #15 (permalink)
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If you really want to get efficient you could build what I did. A 325 sq. ft. tiny house (although I got fancy and made two roofs):
Why doesn't this surprise me?
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:57 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I would think "shape" has very little to do with it.

The MOST efficient home is a cave that stays at 72*F year round, uses LED lighting at night, and solar tube lighting during the day.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sceep View Post
^^ this. i had a buddy growing up who's parents had built a 2500sqft underground home.

it was ALWAYS comfortable in that joint.

^^^I also agree.^^^
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:00 AM   #17 (permalink)
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If you really want to get efficient you could build what I did. A 325 sq. ft. tiny house (although I got fancy and made two roofs):
Smaller is not necessarily efficient. Efficient is the ratio of size to resources consumed.
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:02 AM   #18 (permalink)
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The most efficient shape is a circle. However, people don’t like circles and they are hard to build and utilize.
The second is a square. The least amount of surface area and the most amount of square footage.

So a perfect square would likely be a 2-story.

The most efficient design is likely underground. You have an R value that is off the charts. The down side is that lighting sucks, ground water, and finding the ideal site. Costs are likely going to be high.

I have a design in mind when I build one.
It will be about 40’x40” square, and full basement. The outside will have a wrap around porch around 3 sides. The side without is the north side, because you don’t need shelter from the sun.

Outside will be planted with deciduous trees. So in the summer you are shaped by trees and the porch. In the winter the leaves drop and allow some sun to help warm the house.

The basement will daylight on the down hill side and have a patio under the porch/deck.
Basements are cheap square footage in my area. You don’t need siding and windows. Just block, foundation drains and gravel.
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:05 AM   #19 (permalink)
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My current house has a 2 car garage under the house. That was the worst idea ever. I have good quality garage doors and it is insulated from the house. It will get down to 40 in the garage when the temps are in the teens outside. It adds two more large exterior surfaces to the house. Bedrooms are above the garage, so the floors stay cool and the bedrooms stay cool. DO NOT put a garage under your house. It is a hole that eats heat in the winter and gains heat in the summer.
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:05 AM   #20 (permalink)
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My raised ranch seems pretty efficient. Faces north (sucks ass in the winter), tons of shade, reasonable size 950SF up, 450 finished down. Basement/garage is very chilly, utilities are reasonable I think as well.

I need to get some insualtion blown in the attic before this winter.

WOuldn't the roll out stuff work better and be just as easy covering that limited amount of square footage?
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:12 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Around here anything surrounded in deciduous trees is going to do better than someone with the newest, built to the best efficiency standards, cube house, sitting out in the sun...
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:13 AM   #22 (permalink)
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WOuldn't the roll out stuff work better and be just as easy covering that limited amount of square footage?
Possibly, I am no expert on the matter though. Rolled costs more IIRC
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:13 AM   #23 (permalink)
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out here in the central valley, people with 2 stories pay out the ass to cool their places in the summer. A big thing that started showing up a few years ago is not only dual zones (one up stairs, one down stairs), but even 2 separate AC units. It helps, but they still pay way more than anyone with a single story.

Vast majority of houses out here are on a slab so no telling the diff between having a basement or not. My personal opinion is it helps out this way. Doesn't get real cold in the winter so the biggest concern is cooling in the summer and being glued to mother earth I think helps with that.

Ceiling fans are a huge help. I can keep the thermostat on the edge and if the fans are off the house feels stuffy and one is tempted to bump the temp down, but kick the fans on and it feels nice. I haven't crunched the math, but I know the fans don't draw that much so my guess is running them is still cheaper than running the AC just that much more.

With our current house I do know one down side to its shape. It's 2500 sq ft single story ranch style. But it's a lot longer than it is wide and sometimes it can be tough to get the two furthest bedrooms on even temp with the rest of the house. They tend to be a little warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than the rest of the house. So with that, I'd be inclined to agree that a cube would be more efficient (going with standard construction methods of course)
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:28 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Possibly, I am no expert on the matter though. Rolled costs more IIRC
YEs, but with only 1000sqft to cover, it probably offsets the cost of renting the blower and the hassle of getting it all up there. With the rolls, you just take them up and be done with it.

Also, lowe's frequently puts the attic stuff rolls on sale.
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:44 AM   #25 (permalink)
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The most efficiently shaped house is a cube, as it defines the largest possible interior volume with the smallest possible exterior surface area (barring any crazy round or shperical shapes, which are typically impractical for a home, unless your'e a yurt fan)

Yup. The more cube-shaped it is, the lower your material costs too because of the reduction in exterior walls/roof.
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