Although filtered HVAC systems make for comfortable and healthy inside air quality, even the most efficient draw heavily on AC mains. Insulated airtight walls and windows reduce heat loss and in windy areas reduce dirt infiltration. I would never consider powering a cooling system with solar power but heater blower motors can be so powered. This works well for dual stage furnaces that switch from heat pump to natural gas or propane for emergency heat. Fireplaces are as old as houses but rather than just building any old firebox, I researched fireplace design.
When building my ranch headquarters on the prairie, I thought about using bullet resistant glass but this was ruled out considering light loss and real value per cost. Instead I choose windows meeting Dade County, Florida hurricane specifications. Windows and importantly their frame extrusions and locks meeting these requirements are tested for shatter resistance and high wind load. Of course no window is better than the house framework into which it is mounted. Although not highly bullet resistant, these style windows present a considerable obstacle to someone seeking unlawful egress by breaking a window.
Windows meeting Dade County requirements are available in single or multiple pane configurations and in casement or sash design. Due to high wind loads in the Texas Panhandle I choose casement windows because the harder the wind blows, the better this type window seals. In retrospect, I should have included at least one sash window per house side. Sash windows are better suited for use with external shutters and afford easier egress in the event an emergency evacuation is required.
The main entry to my ranch headquarters is via a courtyard. Courtyards provide enhanced security and reduce wind. Inside the house, I designed a ten foot long entry foyer to further reduce heat loss and wind borne dirt infiltration. A second reinforced entry door was located at the end of the foyer for increased security. All external and bedroom doors are dead bolted and equipped with Rocky Mountain cane bolts. Internal doors are 2 7/8” thick mahogany. I chose sturdy Cantera metal clad exterior doors with of course a Dade County glass specification.
Portions of the house perimeter walls were constructed of fiberglass entrained, rebar reinforced, poured in place concrete. Now concrete is an extremely poor insulator so I framed with 2x6s, filling the framed in walls and ceiling with spray in insulation. Not wanting to introduce a fire hazard, I tried to burn a small piece of the insulation and was impressed by its flame resistance. I cannot recommend this insulation highly enough. A bottle of water was left inside all winter long in the unheated house during construction and it never froze even when the outside temperature dropped to -10F. Chilly this house might be if unheated, but one could live there without supplemental heat.
After product comparison, I choose two Lennox high efficiency furnace/heat pump systems with emergency propane back up. I added Lennox UV lights to these systems to reduce mold and bacteria along with Lennox HEPA electrostatic filters, and humidifiers.
Predominately downwind and several hundred yards down hill from the house I poured another concrete structure to house several 900 gallon propane tanks (propane is heavier than air). This propane fuels the HVAC emergency heat and kitchen appliances. The ranch headquarters has two fireplaces, both of Rumford design that may be unfamiliar to your readers. I equipped one with a fireplace crane in case I ever wanted to cook in it. Even though I have all sorts of backup electrical power options for the HVAC systems, I bought a Sopka Magnum cookstove for post-Schumer installation. These stoves offer a high value to cost and can burn both wood and coal.
Having a house that won’t freeze inside when unheated during the coldest winter is of incalculable value. Chilly it may be but with down and wool, one could live and thrive. Having multiple heating/cooking options are essential when Schumer hits the fan. The value of good insulation is apparent to anyone who has cut wood for heat.
I hope these comments are of value to anyone considering new construction.
Sincerely, – Panhandle Rancher