Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Interior Micro-climates


Photo courtesy Flickr

Recent construction in the neighborhood has thrown the house into deep shade. The 1890 structure is ideally designed and oriented for passive solar gain, given solar itself. The long axis of the house runs east-west and originally it had full south sun. Casual attention to curtains and doors allowed me thirty years of free heat gain any time the sun was out.

This will be the first full year of the new solar situation. I’m watching windows, doors, and the thermostat like a small boat sailor with a squall on the horizon. Surprisingly, the most noticeable change is a new pattern of cleaning demands.
Increasing shade from the south leaves the house more humid than it has been. The damper interior atmosphere amplifies scent, and I find it necessary to shorten the cycle of changing linens to keep rooms smelling fresh. This is not such a bad thing. In fact, the place is smelling fresher than when the sun hit the walls most of the year. The new construction has swales and a rainwater garden on the roof, and the scents of nature dominate in its vicinity.

It dawned on me the other day that I could manage the new shade as if it had been generated by the sudden growth of a forest. The new atmosphere at home can be handled like wilderness. I’ve been able to manage the shift toward cold weather with the same low-tech strategies that have seen us through the previous decades in the house.

Shakers were famous for the cleanliness of their communal living quarters. At the heart of their practice was the best known ventilation. My newly humid rooms demand to be aired with care and attention, and at the moment, doing so is keeping the place sweet, welcoming, and surprisingly rustic. I did not expect to like the change, but I do.

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