Dec 23, 2016: Episode 9 – What’s a Trombe Wall?

Happy Summer Solstice everyone! It was a big day this week for Pagans and Passive Solar Designers everywhere as the sun hit its highest point in the sky. The sad news for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere is that, from now on the days start to get shorter and shorter…. Winter is Coming! Of course, for those north of the equator it was much more a reason to celebrate as the sun hit its lowest point and now the days start to get longer and sunnier. It’s no accident that just about every major religion originating in the Northern Hemisphere has a significant celebration around this time of year. Having lived in Montana for twenty years where the winters are brutally cold and horribly long, I can vouch for the fact that the Winter Solstice is cause for celebration. This is part of the reason why Christmas in Australia is such an anomaly… it is, by nature, a winter festival so it all seems a bit out of place here in the middle of summer. Right now thousands of families are donning swim suits, hats and sunscreen, jumping in the car with the a/c on full blast and trotting off to a blazing hot beach happily singing, “Dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. On the way they might stop in at the local shopping mall where some poor, portly fellow is dressed up as Santa with lots of padding around the middle, a heavy red coat, and a thick, white beard; shouting Ho-Ho-Ho at the hot-and-bothered last-second shoppers and sweating like a pig on a spit. Meanwhile, back at home, the Christmas Tree (a plantation grown pine which doesn’t belong in Australia) is blazing away covered in snow flakes and icicles.

It is all so wonderfully incongruous…. I love it!

Meanwhile, we continue to plug away at the energy retrofit of the old fibro cottage next to the Greeny Flat. In last week’s video I mentioned some of the complications that can arise when trying to apply Passive Solar Design to an existing building. In this week’s episode I focus on just one of these issues, i.e. the lack of Thermal Mass in an old, timber-framed building, and how we are using the existing chimney to create a small Trombe Wall to take advantage of the only bit of Thermal Mass in the building.

I’ve made two versions of this week’s video. For those who like it quick and nasty, without too much detail, here is the short version. In order not to bore you to tears I have left out much of the detailed explanation of how Passive Solar Design works, why Thermal Mass is important and why it is lacking in the old cottage. For this short one I just focus on what is a Trombe Wall and how are we making one.

For those of you who have had their fill of Christmas Carols and have nothing better to do on your holiday, here is the full version with a much more detailed explanation (it’s about ten minutes long).

Thanks for your continued interest in, and support for, the work we’re doing here at the Greeny Flat. Best wishes for the holiday season. When we return we will look at another trick we’re planning to use to boost the Passive Solar performance of the old cottage.

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