Saturday, October 13, 2012

Retrospective #23: Drawing in the Light


Last week I wrote about the north corner of our home, and its transformation from a dark toilet to light-filled breakfast nook. A large part of that transformation was installing aluminium exterior French doors featured in last week’s column and the only ‘store bought’ double-glazed window that I wrote about four weeks ago. Together, these fill our kitchen and meals nook with free light all year long, and with free heat in the winter.

I was recently asked if solar energy was a realistic option, to which I replied, “There is no reason that a new home built in Wanganui need rely on any heat source other than the sun and internal ‘waste heat.’ By waste heat, I mean the heat generated by electrical appliances inside the home such as refrigerators, computers, washers, etc. This heat usually comes from motors or fans. I do believe that some builders in Wanganui are doing just that. But I digress.

A feature of north-facing windows that I have not highlighted yet is free day lighting. There are stacks of studies showing that natural lighting improves worker productivity in factories and offices, and that it improves student performance in school and may even reduce disciplinary issues. Ah, Vitamin D!

We have drawn natural daylight deeper into our home by cutting French doors into the wall between the kitchen and lounge. While I normally provide ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ pictures, in this case the before picture is of a wall – not too exciting for the Lifestyle section of the Chron. However, from the two shots provided, you can get an idea of the transformation that the wall experienced and the resultant brightening of the previous dreary lounge. This type of work required consent when we did it, and now requires a licensed builder.

View from external French doors through a doorway cut through the wall.  

You may recall the before-during-after photos of the lounge that accompanied the article featuring the birth of our daughter, Verti, in that very lounge (Chronicle, 01-09-2012). While the curtains were closed during her birth at 3:30 am on the 29th of August with an outdoor temperature of 3 degrees Celsius, the lounge windows get excellent winter morning sun when it decides to shine. But until we cut the French doors, that was the only sunlight the lounge received all day long from May through August. By afternoon, the lounge would be dark and growing colder by the minute.

The dark lounge with only a northeast-facing window.

Now, with the French doors, the lounge is light all day long, and even receives some direct rays of later afternoon winter sun that comes in over our kitchen bench, over the Shacklock coal range, through the open French doors and all the way to the southeast corner of the lounge: a distance of 10 metres.

View from external French doors through internal French doors.  

While the doors are usually open, there are times when closing them supports our eco-thrifty mandate of low-input / high-performance. For example, when I get up on particularly chilly mornings before sunrise to hunker down with a vat of coffee and my doctoral thesis, I stuff the firebox of the Shacklock with scraps of wood leftover from the renovation, shut the French doors to the lounge, and enjoy the dry heat radiating toward the breakfast nook. Closing doors and heating only certain rooms is common practice in New Zealand, but practically unheard of in the states where ‘central heating’ and ‘central air conditioning’ are the norm. While this practice is in no way unique to eco-thrifty renovation, it is one more piece in the puzzling challenge of how to live well, save money and help the planet.

From my recollection we paid about $350 for these second-hand rimu doors on an online auction. If you are the couple in Aramoho we bought them from, wacha reckon? Have they found a good home? I can’t imagine what the cost would be of having doors like this made these days. We feel it was money well spent. 

Peace, Estwing

3 comments:

  1. Those rimu doors are spectacular, where did they come from exactly? My friend installed some Armenian visage doors into our porch, they're excellent pieces. We had to make a lot of trips to UK Tool Centre though when he almost brought the roof down!

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    Replies
    1. Kia ora Justin,
      We bought the doors on TradeMe, although the Renovator's Centre here in Wanganui also has heaps of doors. Some people are taking out their timber doors and replacing them with aluminium doors. Our gain.
      -Estwing

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  2. You might qualify for a new solar energy program.
    Click here to find out if you qualify now!

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