6 Common House Problems – and How to Solve Them

Few properties are perfectly adaptable to all local climatic conditions that it experiences. A house that is just the right temperature in both summer and winter, not too humid or to dry is a rare thing. Typically, to combat uncomfortable conditions in a house, the inhabitants will use appliances. However, the majority of these appliances use fossil fuel energy – be they central heating systems or air conditioning units. As permaculturists we are always looking for ways to reduce our consumption of energy that contributes to global warming by burning fossil fuels. As such, rather than turning on an appliance, we look at less energy-intensive means to ameliorate our environments. Fortunately, techniques and principles within permaculture enable us to tackle common problems within houses in a more sustainable manner.

Too Dry
If the air inside a house gets too dry it can cause those living with to have irritated skin and sinus problems. Over time the low levels of moisture in the air can cause the membranes of the respiratory system to dry out and so leave it more likely to become infected by cold and flu germs. The best way to add humidity to a room is to place plants within it. The transpiration of moisture that occurs during photosynthesis means that water vapour is released into the room from the underside of the plants’ leaves. This can also aid the air quality of the room in general, as the plants give off oxygen. Because water evaporates from the surface of bodies of water, an indoor pond can help add to the humidity (although it is best to only build one that can be supplied with harvested rainwater, rather than the municipal system). You can also hand a load of wet laundry in the room to harvest the water that evaporates from the clothes as they dry. Another consideration to raise humidity is to channel air from an adjacent greenhouse into the room. Greenhouses have humid atmospheres as they encourage high rates of transpiration in the plants inside, so using ducts to transfer this air to a less humid location can make a significant difference.

Too Humid
If your house is too humid – it has too much water vapour in the air – it is prone to fungal growth and molds. The first remedy to try is opening the windows. This allows air to circulate around the room, displacing the humid air and mixing it with drier air. It is a particularly effective technique if you have windows at either ends of a room, allowing for cross ventilation. However, sometimes, particularly in the colder winter months, aerating the room in this manner is not ideal. You could consider a fan to circulate the air in the room, although it should ideally be a solar powered model to avoid using electricity from the mains.

Too Hot in Summer
If your property experiences high temperatures during the summer months, this is an important factor to take into account when making your initial permaculture design, as you can use planting techniques to reduce the effect on the house. Adding pergolas and vines to the exterior of the house can help to reduce the temperature inside by absorbing energy from the sun hitting the house. Planting one or more deciduous trees provides shade – and when they shed their leaves in the winter, allows the winter sun to reach the property and so help prevent it becoming too cold. As with humidity, if there is a breeze blowing outside, opening the windows to allow air to circulate in the room can help to lower temperatures, although if the air temperature is very high it may have no discernable effect. A fan can also help, but again it should ideally be solar powered. If you are designing a new property sited in area that experiences hit summers, consider including breezeways and corridors that encourage the movement of air around the house in the design.

Too Cold in Winter
A house that experiences cold temperatures in winter should be insulated. This is the most efficient way of reducing energy consumption, as any heat that is added to the house is contained within it for much longer, meaning appliances can be used less frequently or at a low temperature. Double-glazing also substantially reduces energy consumption. You might also consider siting your greenhouse or even your chicken coop adjacent to the property as the heat from the glasshouse or the birds can warm the home. If designing a new property consider creating large windows or predominantly glass walls on the sides that receive the most sunlight, while in established properties, use heavy curtains over the windows during the night to preserve heat inside the house. Another reason houses get cold is that they experience strong winds. Consider planting windbreaks to divert the worst of the wind.

Pollutants
Pollutants in the house can be a problem, particularly for those living in urban areas, where proximity to other buildings and to traffic can common house problemsmean lower air quality. This effect can be made worse if, for instance, a member of the household smokes. A good way to reduce pollutants (and the odours that often accompany them) is to place a lot of dense, fine-leafed plants in the home. Not only do these, like all plants, increase the air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and other polluting gases like methane and emitting oxygen, their leaves can help filter out pollutant particles from the air. If the odours from pollutants in the home are persistent they can cling to clothes. Switching to natural fibres rather than manmade fabrics reduces the odour, as manmade fibres tend to absorb more pollutants.

Noise
Another common problem in urban areas is noise. Excessive noise from neighbouring properties can usually be sorted out by discussing it with the parties involved (or with the authorities if no agreement can be reached), but noise is often intrusive simply from elements such as traffic or construction. Fences are one way to block noise, as are tall trees. Adding double-glazing to the windows will dramatically reduce sound passing into the house.

27 comments
Ariel

This is a deeply dissapointing article.

Although well intentionned, it is extremely shallow, narrow sighted and has little if any direct connection to any permaculture ethics or principles. Retrofitting the average north american house to make it less of a blatant energy sink is important. I would like to see articles like these go into more depth rather than going for a virtual sound bite/ how many clicks can we get approach.

Including Permaculture language/design principles in a DIRECT way would be a good place to start. As would talking about regernative sources for building materials, retrofitting using natural building techniques, passive solar heating and cooling (which is mentionned briefly and not named nor explained) alternative and regernative means of generating meat in the winter and specific designing techniques to increase airflow in humid environment, not just opening windowns and turning on fans.

I’m sorry if this seems like an attack on the author as it is only partially meant as such. Permaculture design offers solutions to some extremely pressing issues, and this article takes all this potential for real and effective change and turns it into ineffective, shallow, band aid-esque, temporary “solutions.

I encourage you to message me if you are interested in figuring out how to turn these kind of sound bite articles- that frankly do a disservice to permaculture design by presenting it as eco capitalist green washing instead of the revolutionary framework for creating lasting and regenerative change that it is- into something more meaningful.

Jeremy

Hey Ariel,

Love the passion. Totally agree with your sentiment.

I’m Currently building a team and expounding upon permaculture principles and patterns to create a model for scalable suburban retro-fitting, still in its infancy but I am looking for more people to work grow with.

Would love I chat.

[email protected]

Dovie

This is an intro with some suggestions on changes people can make in their everyday actions. . . not a certification class or an in depth article. . .apparently you’re more experienced with this all than most people on facebook., . . .be the change you want to see. . .

Bilal Demirbuken

If you truly want to have an effect on global warming, stop eating animals and animal products. 51% of all global warming gases are coming from factory farming, not to mention the deforestation that comes as a result of the never-ending need for more and more grazing land for cattle.

AND if global warming was in fact happening, then I would be worried…..but its not……its a false flag scare tactic……science……true science…….does not support it…..

step 1: get rid of house

No thank you I’ll keep my house and land. It’s paid for…only pay taxes and insurance…and upkeep. No mortgage…how many can claim this?

Window film on all your windows ! Sunbustersnj.com

The largest house problem is exemplified by the house in the original post image: it is obscenely oversized–and we have come to believe that this is normal.

Painted roof white as I have more months of ac than heat, gave away range, cook on induction cooktops, replaced wood framing windows which have aluminum storm windows, replacing windows with double glazed as I can afford

McMAnsions …

perpetuated by the images portrayed on everyday TV soaps!

Polar fleece.

IS that Tony Soprano’s house?

I keep my house at 50 degrees in the winter and use a space heater where I am. Saves $100 / month or more.

Anything that is not used every day is not plugged into an outlet. Programmable thermostat kicks up temp to 55 when I’m home and awake, 45 when I’m not home/asleep. Hot water temp is set at 110 degrees. LED bulbs in the most used indoor lights. Motion sensor lights outside. Freezer is full but when not full, I use ice jugs to keep it full (and cold).

I burn trees that nobody wanted – no oil – minimal electric – If we’re not in a room, the lights aren’t on. Hot water on a timer – if you can’t shower between 7am & 9am – you’re screwed

For one thing – have a much smaller house than the one in the picture, without large windows and high ceilings.

We are getting and on Demand Hot water heater. Save energy and never runs out of hot water. win win

Have fewer children. That helps more than everything else combined.

Yes, My house contributes to global warming. Not.

Too much of ? yes we get it, moderation !

buy smaller houses and put on solar panels,,,

outdoor clothesline, sheet plastic on most of the windows, close off unused part of the house, curtains on doorway to front entry hall to contain the cold, turn off lights, computers when not needed, turn down thermostat and put on a sweatshirt.

I try to hold in my farts until they solidify.

Comments are closed