Thursday, June 16, 2011

#33 - Environmental Shading is Great!

High electric bills nearly send my husband and I to the E.R. every month. Living in Texas is HOT! Having a two-story house that is too big for us since the kids have grown is not so hot.

For our next and hopefully LAST home, I look forward to having our home seating in the middle of the woods. Environmental shading is a way of using natural resources to block the heat before it can get to your house. In other words, environmental shading is kind of like putting a hat on your house or like using greenery as an umbrella that would shield you from the sun at the beach. Environmental shading is important and not used enough in the South, especially not by big fancy "developers." For them, environmental shading only gets in their way of making more money.

This part of our land leads to the area where we want to build our cabin.
I'm ready to have a rustic cabin tucked in the woods, beneath a canopy of trees to shelter us from the heat of the sun. We might have dappled light coming through, but that would be perfect. I'll take dappled light over blaring sunshine any day. Currently, I'm in a neighborhood where houses are exposed to the blaring sun, which is not good for the pocketbook nor for your comfort level inside the house.

Crawfish boil across the street at our neighbor's for their daughter's
birthday party. We all have to stand outside and make our drive-ways
our gathering places, under the blaring sun!
As it gets later in the day, the heat gets bearable
Living in the city does have its perks - it sure is easy to get together
and we just have to walk across the street to go back home.
I love these cedar cabins on this website, they have some shell homes that would be awesome to start with ---

In Texas, the need for solar "heat" is not as necessary. It's usually TOO hot. I have a need to get AWAY from the intense solar heat! Therefore, I believe it is better to keep the cabin in the midst of forest trees so that we can have relief from the many months of sweltering Texas heat. Our winters are usually not so bad, except for a few freak days out of the year, so there's no valid concern for us to let the house be partially exposed to the sun. I'd just rather enjoy the cool temperatures.

A few strategically planted trees and shrubs and vines can make a huge difference in how it feels inside your home and these plantings can make a marked dent in those monthly electric bills that you can't stop from coming in the mail. However, it seems that every house we've owned has been so expensive to keep cool during the hot weather months, simply because our homes are built so close to one another, with concrete foundations, added to the fact that we simply can't have trees all around us. To make matters worse, too many builders clear cut land for development and as they build a house, they stick a twig tree in the front yard which will take twenty years to provide ample environmental shading. So, a lot of people in our neighborhood utilize a faster solution by putting up a trellis in hot spots and then letting vines grow upward so they can provide a heat barrier.

I love this cabin, but it's TOO MUCH in the full sun.
Of course, I do think about falling trees due to lightening strikes, storms, tornadoes and such, but if the house is built properly and the trees are in the right place, there is less likelihood for us to suffer damage.

I do realize that the area around the house will be completely transformed from the look we are accustomed to enjoying in the city. We probably won't be surrounded by a little sectioned off yard with organized driveways and sidewalks. Once we're in the country, the heavy shading by mostly pine trees will likely mean that we will have a yard that will look natural with an outdoor carpet of pine-needles and leaves. This will require that our porches be covered and that our outdoor patios be partially covered. But, I look forward to this woodsy look and I greatly anticipate the coolness of our home.

Nicely done screened porch. But, trees and needed nearby for shading.
One difference that I will have to adjust to when in the country is the reduction in natural light, but to be honest, I can't even keep my window coverings wide open during the hot months here in the city because a 100 degree day generates incredible solar energy that you do your best to block out of the home. I'd actually enjoy being out of the direct line of sunshine so I could fully open my windows and enjoy the view; I love being able to look outside to see the swaying trees, the birds flying and at our house, we can enjoy watching the chickens in the backyard. But, the extreme heat prevents us from opening the blinds. Once we live on our our land, I'll have fully opened blinds and will delight in looking over our acreage, especially the parts of our land that are open to full sun. The views will be incredible. As for lighting inside the country house, I will carefully plan our lighting so that it is adjustable and efficient. With the advances taking place today in technology for light bulbs, I am confident that our house will have beautiful, affordable lighting.

This little cabin is sweet.
Since our house in the woods will be protected from the sun and more prone to cooler ground temperatures, we will finally be able to enjoy more days with the windows open as the screens let refreshing, welcoming cool air blow throughout the house. In fact, I want to plan the windows just right so that, when they are opened, the air flows through easily and completely throughout the cabin.

What about this ultra-modern spin on a "log cabin?" I got a kick out of it.
So, I am ready to enjoy the cool house in the woods. If I could snap my fingers and create a wood filled environment in my neighborhood right now, I'd do it, but we are in one of those clear cut neighborhoods devoid of fully mature trees. But, every week, we water our growing twigs! So, the heat is upon us. I have creepy fig growing up one side of the house that is especially prone to the full brunt of the sun, of course, it's where our master bedroom is located so it's always stifling in that room...I look forward to having a bedroom with cool, fresh air.

I could do some sittin on a porch similar to this...
My future cabin in the woods is not going to be big, it will be quaint, but welcoming. And when you step inside for a piece of Tres Leches, it will be cool and comfortable!


Rae said...

We had a couple trees quite close to the house I grew up in, and they provided a great deal of welcome shade. Cleaning the gutters, though... awful. Our new place has trees everywhere, but not too close to the house. Granted, we're in Oregon. The heat isn't exactly killing us here, if you know what I mean.

As for natural light, we have a solatube in one of our bathrooms, and it is awesome. I wish we had a few more in the house.

LindaG said...

Do they paint the underside of the porch roof blue there, too, to deter wasp nests? Just curious.

I want lots of trees around the house, but hubby doesn't. And there can't be any on the side of the leech field.
Oh well. We'll make do. Probably have a window AC in the bedroom.
Unless I can get screens on all the windows and open them, but will probably still need some sort of AC on the warmest nights.

I do love your property. You're very lucky. :)

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Rae --- I know the gutters will be full, we had one house with a few pine trees and the pine needles were always clogging them, but after living in a house without environmental shading in the Texas sun, I'll do what it takes to keep working on the gutters. Not sure if the gutter systems that claim to not get clogged actually work? I don't think we'll have trees super close to the house, but enough to make a difference. Since we won't have a regular foundation as we have here in the city, it will be easier, but out of septic, etc. path. As for the solatube, I've seen a few of those and everyone likes them. It's a great idea, especially for an interior room. I have to have some natural light coming through...I be living in Oregon is awesome.

Linda --- I've seen a few porch ceilings painted blue, but I did not know it helped with preventing wasp nests! That is a GOOD reason to have blue porch ceilings! My husband is also more leery of trees, but we just have to have enough of them to make a difference for our cabin to have environmental shading. My husband has learned, the hard way, that not having trees around us creates a new set of problems. We will make sure our foundation (of the cabin type) and our septic leech area is free of roots, etc. We'll have to really plan it out with the help of plumbers, etc.

Also, I must have central air and heat, so we'll have it installed, but here in the city the bill can be about $600 per month and we are not keeping it as cool as I'd like during the day. So, we will spend the money on good insulation, good windows and doors, then we'll make sure the house is positioned/layed out properly on the land with good environmental shading. There's so much to think about and to put together. It's good we have this year to do it and to get such AWESOME feedback from others to make us consider a few things that we hadn't.