Doesn't it seem like the Government should know about such things?
After all, Reports published by our Government provide essentially
identical numbers. And maybe even TELL US of the frightening
lack of long-term supplies, which we therefore assume are very secure?
Unfortunately, the only people who intimately know these things are
the companies that make enormous profits from providing them to the
public. It is not really in their financial interest to be honest
with us, and therefore scare us to become more energy conscious
or to consider the dreaded "alternative energy sources".
Conserving Energy - Methods and Processes
It is probably very urgent that individuals take steps to
conserve energy on a large scale. It appears that governments,
especially the U.S. Bush government do not seem to even acknowledge
that serious and urgent problems exist, such as Global Warming
and about home heating and cooling costs that are spiraling out of control.
Politicians seem to talk as though we have absolutely no concerns
about either supplies of (oil, natural gas, electricity, nuclear,
hydroelectric) or their consequences to the environment.
For me, the last straw occurred as I was researching for a
recent web-page regarding Global Warming effects in the future,
Alaska Pipeline - Alyeska - Physics and Local Climate Effects
(Radiation Probably Changing the Climate,
where I had to research the known quantities of each type of
energy source (oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, etc) and the rates
at which we are consuming them. I had previously believed the
"vague and distant" predictions of reliable supplies of all
those energy sources for 50 years and beyond. That appears to be
farther in the future than politicians see reason to have concern about!
But what I learned, from US Government and reliable industry published
reports, was shocking!
According to the Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2005, BP,
using the 2004 data, the United States (and coastal waters) has 29.4
billion barrels of proven oil reserves, and that we are currently
using oil up at 6.873 billion barrels per year. This indicates
that, without any imported oil, we would use up all of the American
proven reserves of oil in just 4.28 years! FOUR YEARS usage is all we
Using the 2004 data from the same Report, the United States has 5.293
trillion cubic meters of proven reserves of natural gas, and that we are
currently using natural gas up at 0.647 trillion cubic meters per year.
This indicates that, without any imported natural gas, we would use up all
of the proven American reserves in just 8.18 years! EIGHT YEARS usage is
all we have, ever!
The situation regarding known American supplies of Uranium is even more
dire. We essentially already mined virtually all of it by the mid-1990s
and ALL the Uranium mines were closed down!
Coal seems to be the only fossil fuel that we have in relative
abundance, where it would last us for around 250 years, if we remained
at current consumption levels.
My web-page on those statistics is at
Energy Supplies of the World - Petroleum, Coal, Gas, Uranium Published Actual Energy Supplies, Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Uranium
Reducing YOUR Energy Needs
These reasons above are the primary cause that I composed this
web-page, which contains suggestions on how to cut in half (or less)
YOUR energy consumption, without significant hardship. If we do
NOT do something, as individuals, think about the alternative.
Our Government will not even admit that we are causing Global Warming,
even though many responsible scientists (including me!) made this
situation clear at the first Earth Day in April 1970. We had plenty of
data to PROVE that Global Warming was already happening, but the
giant energy companies, and the Nation's Economy in general, did not
want to hear it, because their profits and the sense of prosperity
would have been damaged. In any case, even now knowing that
around 1/3 of the North Polar Ice Cap has melted, and innumerable other
obvious effects, there still seems to be denial among the Executives
of those companies and the Politicians whose Campaigns they generously
finance. So it would certainly be 5 or 10 or 15 more years, before
our Congress will even start to act, and even then they will be
hesitant, because their close friends, the giant energy companies,
would have profits reduced by any actions they might take.
A group of respected researchers announced in late 2007 that the
ENTIRE North Polar Ice Cap will have melted by the summer of 2013!
But you can see from the figures above, we will certainly have
catastrophic shortages of any or all of those energy supplies,
before Congress even gets around to thinking about doing something!
So, as individuals, we will have to do it ourselves!
Eliminating Nearly All of Air Conditioning Costs
For people who own a house or other building, for several years
we have provided free plans to accomplish (virtually) Free Air Conditioning
(for most climates). Only a few thousand people seem to have
installed such systems so far, but it is certainly a easy
and inexpensive way to save $1,000 or more each summer on A/C
electric bills. This system is based on the well-known fact
that, if there were a natural cave beneath your house, it would
be at a pretty constant temperature, the average annual
temperature for that climate, much cooler than the daytime summer
temperatures in nearly all climates. The system essentially creates
an "artificial cave" beneath the house, using standard
Engineering calculations to keep it as small (and inexpensive) as
possible while still providing both short-term and long-term
cooling for the building. If the climate has severe winters,
the system can also be used as a source for (relatively) warmer
air to heat up for the house.
As an example, near Chicago, the average annual temperature is
around 53°F, meaning that the deep soil will normally be near
that temperature, and a "cave" down there would also
naturally be around that temperature. If a house in summer is
surrounded by 90°F air, and the interior house air is near that,
by circulating the house air through "the cave" it
can come back into the house at the 60°F (and 40% relative
humidity) which is the design output of a standard air conditioner
system. The same standard wall thermostat can control a blower
that pushes air through "the cave" (actually clean PVC plastic
sewer pipe tubes!) and the comfort level in the house is EXACTLY
the same as if a conventional central A/C system were being used.
You just wouldn't have to hear the noise of that fan outside and
wouldn't have to watch the electric meter spinning around so fast!
In the winter, that house near Chicago sometimes has to draw in
outside air that is below 0°F to heat it up to the 120°F that it might
send out the warm air registers to the rooms. If the "cave"
air at 53°F was heated instead, only around half the heating effort
(and heating fuel) would be needed for the same comfort.
This system (and much more) is presented at:
a href="../solar/saving.html">Home Air Conditioning (1978, December 2000)
Eliminating About Half of Current Winter Heating Costs and Fuel
Consider my example, of a single person living in a 9-room house, 2100
square-foot, house. During the winter, the central heating system
heats the entire house EVEN THOUGH I CAN ACTUALLY ONLY BE IN ONE ROOM
AT ANY ONE TIME! I might close off the heat registers in a room or two
which I rarely use, but I was still essentially heating the entire
house, continuously, even though only one room truly needed to be heated!
The fact that most people spend most of their time in a single room
for many hours (like a bedroom at night, or the living room or den in the
evening) and that no one at all may be home during the daytime when
everyone is at work or at school, seems to show how foolish it is
to be constantly heating an entire house.
Now consider this: My living room, which I tend to also use as an
office, is fairly large, 14 feet by 20 feet with an 8.5 foot ceiling.
This is around 2400 cubic feet of air. The (giant) blower on my
standard furnace circulates 2100 cubic feet per minute, and the
warm air from the furnace comes out at around 120°F, nice and warm.
Now, say that when I am NOT in that room for many hours (as when
at work or when sleeping in a bedroom), I allowed that room to
(naturally) cool down to around 45°F. And say that I greatly increased
the size of the house warm air branch ducts (NOT the furnace!) and room
warm air registers, and I installed "electric or pneumatic
solenoids" to be able to direct ALL the furnace's 2100 cfm
of warm air to that one room! You can probably see that I would
only need to send around (2400 * (70 - 45) / (120 - 45) or 800
cfm of furnace air into that room to get the air temperature up to
an average of 70°F! And it would only take the furnace (800 / 2100)
or 0.38 minute, or 23 seconds, to do that!
See the point? On most days near Chicago, virtually NO heating
is necessary to keep a room in a well-insulated house at 45° or
higher, so ZERO heating fuel is involved, for the 8+ hours
at work or the 8+ hours in bed in the bedroom. When first entering
that (large) room, yes, there can be up to 23 seconds while the room
feels cool or cold, but by 35 seconds, the room feels extremely
cozy because it is actually "too warm" for a little while!
(This is necessary because the new warm air in the room needs to
warm up the furniture, walls, carpeting, etc in the room, and
everything gets up to proper temperature quicker if the air is
briefly warmer than normal. It is actually a very nice sensation,
to be in a large room, in winter, that is extremely cozy!
Experience has shown that at least one bathroom should always be kept
fully warmed, but all the other rooms can be "intermittently
heated" in this way. The fuel savings can be amazing!
If only 1/4 of the house is being heated at any one time, then only
around 1/4 of the heating fuel is consumed! This means that
heating bills are FAR less. Even better, only a small fraction
of the fossil fuels get burned, and therefore there is less dependence
on foreign fuel supplies and FAR less contribution to sending
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is the primary cause
of global warming. A win-win-win situation!
What is involved for YOU to do this? Not a lot, really. You do
NOT have to get a new furnace! But MOST of the house warm air duct
system and room registers would have to be replaced. You have
probably seen (in your basement) some very large shiny ducts
up along the ceiling (called main distribution ducts) which are
often 8" high and 20" wide. You may have also noticed
that they have lots of LITTLE (round) ducts branch off of them
which go to the various room registers. All those little ducts
would need to be replaced with the "giant" rectangular
main distribution ducts (and suitable giant registers provided in the
rooms). The duct system needs to have a way to send ALL of the
warm air the furnace can provide to a single room, to be able
to heat it up really fast!
You probably realize that each room then also needs its own
wall thermostat, absolutely standard products. The only remaining
part of the system are the "gates" that need to get put inside
the ducts, to block off heat from going to most of the rooms and to
only open when you want a room heated. It turns out that all automobiles
use a wonderful method of accomplishing that! When you slide the
dashboard heater control to Heat, or Defrost, or Fresh Air, or A/C,
there are actually "pneumatic" (air-powered, or actually
vacuum-powered) dampers that open and close the necessary air paths.
This technology is at least 50 years old and well developed!
Adapting it to the much larger house ducts is not difficult, and
quite inexpensive! There are also other ways to do the same thing.
Electrical solenoids could be used (since just a yes/no airflow
is desired) but some solenoids can make loud noises due to their
rapid and powerful motions, but they are only a few dollars each.
A very expensive way to go would be to use commercial damper
actuators (at $100 or more each), which we do NOT recommend due
to the cost. Such devices are silent and open and close air paths
slowly, but they are primarily intended for installations where
ducts may need to stay partially open. That is not necessary
for this system!
Now, I have found that a couple of added features make this system
a lot more user-friendly! I found that sensors on doorknobs,
to initiate the heating of the room, get medium-sized rooms
nicely heated in just the 6 or 8 seconds between touching the
doorknob and sitting down in a chair in the room. This minimizes
the sensation of being briefly chilly. I found that it is a good
idea to delay (completely) shutting off the heat to a room for
at least 2 to 5 minutes, for when you go to the kitchen for a snack
during TV commercials or need to use the bathroom!
There are a few disadvantages to this system. Live house plants
do NOT like the great temperature ranges they would have to endure,
and they don't! Most pets do not seem to mind too much, but the
fact that doors to rooms all normally stay closed for this to work
limits their movements, and they generally seem to enjoy staying in
a warmed room. The pet owner would need to decide if one room
should stay heated while at work during the daytime, which otherwise
would not be necessary.
There is a POSSIBLE disadvantage that could be more serious. It may be
useful to repaint the interiors of all the rooms! There is a special
shellac-based type of primer paint which stops all moisture from penetrating
the wall surfaces (and then normal can be painted over the top of that
shellac Primer. The reason this can be important is not necessarily
obvious. When the walls of a room are rather suddenly heated from
45°F to 70°F or above, on a regular basis, the Indoor Relative Humidity
can change very rapidly in the room, which could force moisture either
into or out of the walls. If such moisture were allowed to regularly
be penetrating the wall surfaces, combined with a slight expansion and
contraction of the wall materials with the heat changes, it could be
possible that hairline cracks might form between sheets of drywall.
By using the shellac-based primer paint, this possibility should be
eliminated, and also house humidity levels should be more easily
There is another effect which can be minor or major. The room that you
are normally in has air where moisture has been added. It is healthy
to keep the IRH (indoor relative humidity) above 30% and even near 40%.
This IRH value is true at the warmed air temperature in that room.
When some of that air goes into other (unheated) parts of the house,
for scientific reasons, the IRH rapidly increases. If enough of that
humidified air is able to get into an unheated room, the IRH can get
to be 100%. You have seen this happen in a basement in summer,
when warm air from outdoors gets near the cold basement walls or
floor, and there is condensation that occurs. Under certain conditions
(which can be avoided), such condensation could occur in unheated
rooms as described above.
Even Better, Eliminating ALL Heating Bills!
A new set of web-pages presents several devices which YOU can build,
(including the HG 3a system which might be the best of them!)
which allows you to ENTIRELY heat your house by allowing the grass
mowed from your lawn and the leaves raked from your yard, to NATURALLY
decompose. It turns out that such natural decomposition gives off
huge amounts of heat energy, to provide both house heating and hot
water heating, at no cost at all! An overview presentation is
at Alternative GREEN Furnace - Non-Fossil-Fueled - Brief Discussion HeatGreen - A Non-Fossil-Fueled Home Heating Furnace System.
A linked page includes complete construction instructions, which
involves around $200 of materials.
TV shows, books and lectures are EVERYWHERE describing thousands of
more traditional methods of saving energy. We have not commented
on them here because they are all so well documented elsewhere.
We have some "more expensive" suggestions, too!
Solar Heated House NorthWarm Totally Solar - Version 1 (1979)
- If you own your own home and have a decent sized yard, you might want
to consider the NorthWarm Solar Version 2 system, at:
NorthWarm Solar-Heated House - Version 2
It is a separate building that is used to provide enough heat (through
underground passages) to the house for most or all of the house's heating
- If you are planning a NEW home, you might consider digging the
foundation as much as 8 feet deeper, and providing an entirely hidden
underground storage chamber for heat. It is realistically possible
to store 40,000,000 Btus of summer heat in that chamber, losing about
10 million of that through the insulation surrounding it, but then having
30 MBtu available to heat the house! With NO oil, natural gas or electricity
needed to produce that heat, it is simply "heat from the previous
Heat and Cool a House without a Furnace or Air Conditioner (1977, Nov. 2000)
That system also provides for all the air conditioning the house could
possibly need! Best of all, it is absolutely invisible, being
entirely UNDER the basement floor! (That storage could actually store
heat from many different energy sources, and not just natural summer
solar energy, such as a woodstove.
- Also, if you are planning a new home, and are willing to have an
"unusual" house, maybe the NorthWarm Version 1 house, which
ENTIRELY heats exclusively by solar heating, might make sense.
This presentation was first placed on the Internet in November 2005.
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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago