Monday, September 03, 2007

Learning and Adapting

I believe in evolution which I define as "change through time". We evolve or we wither and die -- individuals, families and cultures. For thousands of years people have adapted to new situations.

When the Cherokee were forcefully moved from North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia to Oklahoma they adapted to a radically different environment. I'm in the same process. When I moved from the rolling hills of central Kentucky to the plains of Texas I experienced a different environment. However, there were some similarities. Water was readily available. Kentucky has plenty of rain and Texas pumps water from the aquifer as if it's limitless. Both places had commercially available electricity which translated into air conditioning.

Now, I live in Arizona and have to adapt to a desert environment. Water is 1,400 feet deep. I generate electricity from solar with a small contribution from wind. The cost of installing a system large enough to pump water and provide air conditioning is prohibitive and unnecessary. Native Americans adapted to this environment without electricity, pumps and air conditioning. I can do it also.

One of the keys to staying cool is to avoid the sun and, when in the sun, wear light colored clothing. It's no different for housing. Choice of material and color can provide natural passive relief when the temperature hits 100 as it does by early June each year.

About 2 years ago I purchased an infrared thermometer to measure the surface temperature of objects. Point the thermometer at an object, pull the trigger and it displays a temperature. I keep thermometers on both out-buildings, on the deck, in the oven and in the refrigerator. I've tested the infrared by checked the temperature of these thermometers and it's accurate.

The photos below record temperatures of various materials of differing colors. They were taken on Sunday, June 2, when the air temperature was 89 degrees.

Stone landing.
This is the stone landing at the base of the steps leading from the deck. The temperature in the sun was 116. The temperature about 3 feet to the right in the shade was 101. The sun has been on the shady area earlier because it's west of the sunny area. (Larger version)

Siding and trim.
This is the siding and trim on one of my out buildings which is painted to match the house. The off-white paint was 115 degrees and the trim color was 127. (Larger version)

I had moved a small table saw to a shady area early in the morning but the shade disappeared. The temperature of the black portion of the table was 140. (Larger version)

The temperature of this white sheet of insulation behind the thermometer was 106 degrees -- the lowest temperature of any item I checked.. (Larger version)

The temperature of this blue rain barrel which was full of water was fascinating. The blue was 132 and the white bung was 107. (Larger version)

The bright aluminum portion of the table saw illustrates an issue that I've discovered before. The temperature reads 51! A cloud had passed over just before I took the photo but the air temperature was still 89. How could it read 51? I checked the frost on the side of my car one winter morning and found it to be wrong. It appears -- though I haven't confirmed this theory -- that some surfaces don't reflect or radiate infrared. Any physicists out there have the real answer? A reality check was easy. I measured both the bright and black portions of the table and put my hand on them to check the difference. (Larger version)

This 500 gallons cistern had about 300 gallons in it. The temperature of the top in the sun was 128, the side in the shade above the water was 89 -- the same as the air temperature -- and the temperature below the water level in the shade was 77. Ah ha! Yes, this concept can be extended to provide some passive air conditioning and I have a plan for this. (Larger version)

I took one other temperature reading without a photo. The lumber of my deck in the sun was 131 and the area in the shade on the same board was 90.

As I've mentioned before, I'm building an attached green house or solar room. I'm designing it to heat the house in the winter and provide relief from the sun in the summer. The infrared thermometer helps me make plans, test and manage my adaptation to a high desert environment.

This is just a small sampling of what the tool can do. If you're trying to live in a sustainable manner, I suggest getting an infrared thermometer.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

You are a man on a commendable mission.

9/05/2007 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Hodgens said...


I find this post fascinating. Yes, it represents a kind of evolution based on accurate appraisal of the sitution you find yourself in and building on that for improvement.

I remember visiting a Kiva in New Mexico (I think it was in what was called the Aztec Pueblo. Very cool in comparison to the ambient air outside.

I like your hands-on figure it out yourself approach.


9/05/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger arcolaura said...

When I saw your photo of the rain barrel, I wondered if the temperature was different above and below water level. Then I read further and you answered my question - thanks!

9/05/2007 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

The desert is an amazing place. When we would stop to rest, refuel and rehydrate the temperature was often 110 to 112 in the shade. Sitting under in shade it was comfortable; almost cool.

I know - off subject.

9/05/2007 10:04:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home