Before the invention of central heat and air conditioning, people generally built houses that were designed to be as comfortable and durable as possible for their specific climate. In hot climates, they built overhangs to shade windows and protect from rain, high ceilings to let the hot air rise above the people, porches to sit out on when it was hot, and big windows to let in breezes. In cold climates, overhangs were smaller to let more sun shine into the house. In dry, desert areas, houses were made of masonry that would absorb heat during the day, releasing it at night.
When we started heating and cooling our homes, all those smart decisions fell by the wayside and we started building any type of house anywhere -- southern cottages in the north, southwest adobe-style homes in the south, and on and on. However, appropriate roofing in Phoenix is not synonymous with appropriate roofing in Baltimore. What we are finding is that a house style in the wrong climate can lead to more energy use, and reduced comfort and durability.
For example, in the hot, rainy south, small or no overhangs let too much water hit the walls of the house, which causes premature deterioration and lets in too much sun on hot days. Big overhangs in the north don’t let enough of the sun’s heat on cold days. This illustrates that thinking about where you are when you decide what kind of house to build is an easy way to make a better, greener house that will be cheaper to operate, more comfortable, and last longer -- and none if this has to cost you a dime extra. Just make the right decisions early in the process.
Here are some guidelines for climate-friendly roofing and window placement:
Captions courtesy of Networx.
Networx Home Tips
If you build or renovate your house to fit your local climate conditions, you can save energy, save money on maintenance, and be more comfortable year round. Why more people don’t do it is beyond me.