Lessons in Thermal Mass and Great Insulation

4379 W US Hwy 290 Fredericksburg TX thermal mass window ledgeI think it is easier for one to learn a lesson by actually feeling it, experiencing it with their own body and mind. Such is the case with thermal mass. I first learned about thermal mass in the Texas Hill Country near Austin, Texas. I believe it was at Lyndon Baines Johnson’s boyhood home in Johnson City, Texas. It was a very hot Texas Summer day, temperatures were maybe in the high 90’s or so. The old historic home was made of hand hewn large rectangular native stone. I entered the home and felt pleasantly cool. It was amazing! It must have been in the 70’s in there on this hot Summer day. Those massive natural stones did the job! They created thermal mass to even out the temperature extremes.

Now, in 2010, my husband does not understand the benefits of thermal mass or excellent insulation. No matter how much I talked to him he just did not get it. Words just don’t mean as much as experiencing it. So one weekend, when we were out in Buda, Texas previewing a community, I took him to see a home built with foam insulation.  This particular builder always leaves the large HVAC closet open at the top to the attic. You can walk in the closet and look up to see the foam insulation under the roof decking in the attic, so hence, you are in the attic. My husband has been in our typical Texas home’s attic and felt the extreme temperature difference. In the Summer, going up in your typical Texas attic is like walking into a sauna set on highest heat. You start perspiring profusely immediately upon entry. Your air-conditioning duct work has to struggle to deliver cold air through that heat! My husband was totally amazed at the coolness of this attic space. Here it was, a hot summer day in the afternoon and that closet and hence the attic was in the 70 degree range. This is why in homes built like this, the attic is considered conditioned space.

Do you have similar experiences? If not, I’d love to help you in your GREEN education. Sometimes it is better to experience it than just read about it. I’d love to show you some homes with thermal mass and or great insulation. I know of homes we can see that are of Passive Solar design and made of SIP construction – Structurally Insulated Panels.  This building design concept of thermal mass protects against the huge temperature swings. Thermal mass is part of Passive Solar design. I also know homes in the Austin area made of ICF construction Insulated Concrete Forms. ICF combines thermal mass with insulation. It is concrete mixed with recycled polystyrene. I even know of an old historic Texas German settler home currently for sale made of the old fashioned but well working native stone blocks or high-mass masonry walls. I’d love to help you buy your own energy efficient home. Call me, Betty Saenz GREEN REALTOR at (512) 785-5050 or e-mail Betty Saenz

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