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This San Diego house operates on a quarter of the energy that its neighbors use.

In 1981, when San Diego Gas & Electric began offering a new time-of-use rate structure (whereby customers pay less to use energy at off-peak hours), only one house in its service area was ready to cash in on the biggest savings.

Now, after more than a year's worth of remarkably low utility bills, Esther and Wayne Ottinger still have one of only two houses able to utilize SDG&E's largest time-of-use rate differential: 60 percent savings for off-peak energy consumption. In their all-electric house, monthly electricity bills have stayed under $40, compared to over $140 paid by the owner of a similar-size (2,700-square-foot) conventional house in the neighborhood.

After buying their sloping lot in Vista, 9 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, the Ottingers wanted to put the principles of passive solar heating and natural ventillation to full use. With the help of San Diego architect Stanley Keniston, they worked out a straightforward design they could build themselves.

Sensitive siting near the top of the slope came first. Building the house just 5[deg.' off the true east-west axis, achieving a nearly true south orientation, minimized grading and took advantage of prevailing upslope breezes from the west and southwest.

At the west end of the house, trees and lath around decks form what Keniston calls a "wind scoop" to pre-cool and channel breezes idoors through floor-level windows and sliding glass. Air is released through high windows and vents on the north and east sides. To encourage indoor air flow, Keniston included a few walls; at the west end, a "great room" combines living, dining, and cooking areas.

Opening from both the great room and the adjacent master bedroom is a south-facing bay. It has a concrete-block trombe-wall base below floor level, faced with black metallic foil to help absorb heat. Its collected heat rises into the tile-floored spa in the bay. Here, winter temperatures stay 15[deg.' to 20[deg.' above the outdoors. Excess heat is stored in sub-floor water barrels.

To share this gathered warmth, sliding glass doors open to the great room, and a French door leads to the master bedroom. In summer, the owners open the bay's bottom windows to catch upslope breezes; at the peak of the bay, vents open to let out excess heat.

At the side of the bay, load-bearing posts and beams frame seven clear glass panels, four of which enclose a second trombe wall (since it isn't load-bearing, it qualified for a tax credit). Panels at each end provide views from the master bedroom and bath.

At the easternmost end of the house, a study above the garage has the highest vents to expel heated air. The Ottingers use their forced air furnace only as a fan to move air, since they never need it for space heating.
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Date:Feb 1, 1984
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