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For Home Heating, Build Up—Not Out

These days, it’s hot enough up here in Vermont that a person could forget what the winters are like. But make no mistake: winter will come, and when it does, the energy efficiency of your home will once again be a major concern.

Building a house? Moving into a new place? If you’re thinking about whether a one- or two-story house will be the best fit for your family, you’ll probably want to know which setup will use your heat energy more effectively. Based on that criteria, your best bet will actually be the two-story job.

Rob Roy explains. (With numbers!)

The following is an excerpt from Mortgage Free! Innovative Strategies for Debt-free Home Ownership, Second Edition by Rob Roy. It has been adapted for the Web.

Heat Loss Comparison of One- and Two-Story Design

For the sake of easy figuring, we’ll compare a simple 32-foot-square one-story design with a 32-foot-square two-story design, each built on a floating slab. Each story has 9-foot-high walls, and the stairwell space eats up 48 square feet on each floor, so 96 SF of useful floor area is lost to the need of accessing the second story.

Skin area, single-story home     Skin area, two-story home
Slab32′ × 32′ = 1,024 SF     Slab32′ × 32′ = 1,024 SF
Walls128 PF × 9′ = 1,152 SF     1st story walls128 PF × 9′ = 1,152 SF
Roof32′ × 32′ = 1,024 SF     2nd story walls128 PF × 9′ = 1,152 SF
       Roof32′ × 32′ = 1,024 SF
Total skin area=3,200 SF     Total Skin Area4,352 SF


Floor area, single-story home     Floor area, two-story home
Floor area32′ × 32′ = 1,024 SF     1st floor area32′ × 32′ = 1,024 SF
       2nd floor area32′ × 32′ = 1,024 SF
       Less 96 SF lost in stairwell-96 SF
       Floor area= 1,952 SF

Gain in skin area with two-story house: 4,352 SF – 3,200 SF = 1,152 SF
Percentage gain in skin area: 1,152 SF ÷ 3,200 SF = 36 percent
Gain in useful floor area with two stories: 1,952 SF – 1,024 SF = 928 SF
Percentage gain in floor area: 928 SF ÷ 1,024 SF = 91 percent

Bottom line: Adding the second story increases usable floor space by 91 percent with only 36 percent more skin area. And that’s not all. Warm air rises. We may as well use it twice before it leaves us. If the primary heat source warms the air in the lower story, we can use the heat again upstairs. Strategic placement and use of floor registers, internal doors, and the stairwell itself will allow passive delivery of this heat, and the effect can be controlled further with a simple fan in the ceiling of the first story.

Overshoot, Collapse, and Creating a Better Future

In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day happened on August 8—the day when we’ve exhausted the planet’s resources for the year, and are essentially borrowing from future years to maintain our existence today.Perhaps you celebrated this day with a counter-solution: a vegetarian meal, telecommuted, or turned off the air conditioning. There’s a lot more you could be […] Read More

Save Energy & Money This Winter: Seal Up Your Drafty House

Unless you’ve taken special preventative precautions, it’s likely that on cold days much of your house’s heat pours out through your (closed) windows. Most houses—especially old houses—have drafty, uninsulated windows that do little to prevent heat from dumping out into the cold night. Even if your windows aren’t drafty, the expensive heat your furnace has […] Read More

The Limits to Growth and Greece: Systemic or Financial Collapse?

Could it be that the ongoing Greek collapse is a symptom of the more general collapse that the Limits to Growth model generates for the first two decades of the 21st century? Author Ugo Bardi (Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet) examines the correlation between what is unfolding between Greece […] Read More

Permaculture Q&A: Mulching Options for Your Garden

As Permaculture Month continues, we are making our expert authors available to answer your burning permaculture questions. If you have a question to submit, fill out this form. This week, Lottie from Florida asked if there are other garden mulch options that are as effective as hay. Josh Trought, one of our soil building and garden management […] Read More

Designing Your Own Solar Cooker & Dehydrator

In today’s world, nearly everything we use, from phones and computers to cars and kitchen appliances, requires energy derived from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offset some of that energy use by harnessing the renewable power of the sun? Josh Trought, founder of D Acres—an educational center in New Hampshire that researches, applies, […] Read More
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