Climate affects the energy needs

How climate affects energy is especially interesting in Sweden. According to many, the climate in Sweden is perfect for a permacultural way of life – as long as we can satisfy our need for heat and storage.

The conditions of a place and how climate affects the energy needs

When working with permaculture, and when it comes to energy and climate – you plan to utilize the incoming resources to the maximum before they leave your yard while creating conditions to protect family and home from various climate and energy challenges. To gain knowledge of the conditions of a place; the influence of water, precipitation, wind, and sunlight on the land and buildings is studied. With the combined information, you can then use the permaculture design tool to optimize both energy usage and energy storage. The ultimate goal of optimizing energy resources is – at least in the long term – to be self-sufficient and, if possible, to produce a surplus for any emergencies.

Energy from water

Water can also be a source of energy within a system in various ways. According to the laws of physics, the higher up in a system the water is, the greater the amount of energy it contains. On the other side of the coin, the farther down the system the water is, the less power the water has – while also increasing the potential for life in it. If you compare a roaring waterfall and the still lagoon at the end of it, it is easier to understand the connections.

The wind and how it affects the energy needs 

The wind affects the climate a whole lot. By observing different wind phenomena over a long period – at least one year and preferably several – you can determine whether wind protection needs to be created. If you need to open up for more wind, or if there is any possibility of taking advantage of wind energy.

The sun and how the climate affects the energy needs

The sun is the largest energy source we have, and it gives us vital light and heat. In fact, without the sun, there would be absolutely nothing, but today – the sun has come to represent not only an asset but also a threat. In climate change contexts, the effect of the sun is often discussed as something that we must protect ourselves from to avoid an even greater issue. ‘This can create a vicious circle, which has already happened in several places around the globe as the amount of smog and cloudiness grows, decreasing the possibility of natural farming and gardening due to a lack of sun.

When building houses today, there is much to gain from taking into account the sun and its energy. Here in the Nordic countries, it is especially important to orientate the houses towards the south. The best energy result gives a location where the long side of the house is slightly turned towards the southwest because then the last rays of the evening sun will also benefit you. For us in the north, the best house shape is a long, narrow one.

Letting the room planning be dictated by the sun is also beneficial from an energy perspective. This is because the best location for bedrooms, bathrooms, toilets, laundry, and mudrooms are against the shaded side of the house. In contrast, the kitchen, dining room, living room, and other day rooms are best placed against the sunny side.

The windows should also be planned with regard to the sun, where the ones on the shaded side are few and quite small, while those on the sunny side are many and large.

The fact that the sun hits differently in different seasons may not always be something you think about. Still, in regards to energy, this is important. In the middle of summer, the sun does not reach far into a room, but it often becomes too hot indoors anyway. From an energy-efficient point of view, it is better to use some form of shading to protect you during the hottest hours of the day instead of using energy-intensive air conditioning. In the autumn, and in line with the ever sinking sun, the sun reaches farther into the house, which can be used in various ways.

If you are building from scratch, the walls that are reached by the winter sun – most often the middle wall of the house – can be made from a material that has an excellent ability to store heat. The winter sun will then heat the interior wall, which then slowly emits its heat during evening and night. If you want even more winter sun, a good solution is a split roof as in the picture on the next page.

In an existing house, you have to resort to other tricks such as having these walls darker or using different forms of interior design that can help to preserve the heat.

I want to take this opportunity to recommend a relatively simple, cheap, and above all, solar-powered air conditioning unit – a so-called sun chimney, which is based on the principle that hot air rises. A sun chimney consists mainly of black plate tubing, a roof passage, and a vent inside the house. The chimney should be located on the south side of the roof, right above the warmest point you have in your house. When the sun hits the tube, this becomes hot – very hot, which causes the air inside the tube to rise while at the same time pulling on the warm indoor air. To get good airflow, this is supplemented by a few vents along the floor of the shaded side of the house so that the cooler air can be drawn in. It is important to remember that all vents must be able to close entirely to avoid heat losses during the cold season.