This is how to be carbon zero in Spain. You can retro fit an existing house or use these principals for your new build.
If you want to be green do this. It’s the biggest contribution you can make towards reducing climate change except for stopping flying and we know you’re not going to do that. For that we just have to hope Richard Branson can invent a green jet fuel for aircraft.
In the meantime let’s all just harness the power from the sun to run our houses. Its a wonderful resource supplied by nature.
1. You need a well-insulated house with thoughtful orientation and window placement and double glazed e-coated windows. This makes your home energy efficient but perhaps more importantly it makes your home more comfortable. You are going to have more even radiant temperatures in your home not a blast of hot air in the winter or cold air in the summer. Blasts are not comfortable. Radiant heating and cooling is. By the way the windows should also make the maximum advantage of the views and correspond to how you want to use the house.
2. Install Solar Hot Water – this is pretty standard now in Spain. The systems are inexpensive and reliable. You should install two hot water chambers. Both are heated by solar panels. When the first one is exhausted it draws water from the second chamber (also heated by the solar panels). This second chamber is backed up by an electric immersion heater powered by an air source heat pump. So you will always have hot water even if it’s not sunny.
3. Install an Air Source Heat Pump. There is nothing complicated about this. It’s like a standard air conditioning unit. It just uses the natural heat differential in the air plus electricity (see below). The key thing is that it’s very efficient in how it uses electricity. Forget ground source heat pumps of geothermal heating systems in Spain they are expensive and don’t work as well. And please forget oil or gas fired heating systems. The fuel is expensive, smelly, dirty, and releases C02 into the environment which causes global warming and climate change.
4. Install Photo Voltaic Panels for electricity. These systems are fairly standard these days. You will need the space for them either on the roof or in the garden or on some patch of scrubland that is not being used for anything else. They need to be orientated ideally facing south but just off south is ok. You will need a battery system to collect the energy when it’s sunny so you can use the power when it’s not. If you are under 10HW and most people are there is no need to worry about the sun tax.
That’s pretty much it. In summary a well-insulated house, solar hot water, an air source heat pump that is powered by PV electricity. If you do this you are a long way to being carbon zero and you have lower fuel bills, and are more comfortable.
Here are some other points that go with all this.
5. System Sizing – what happens when the whole family comes to stay at Christmas and everyone wants a shower at the same time? If you can then be on grid. A Spanish proverb goes “una vez al año no hace daño” (once a year won’t hurt you). Don’t get distracted by system sizing. Install a small system if you like and use mains electricity when your system can’t cope. Something is better than nothing.
6. Underfloor heating and cooling – use underfloor heating and cooling because its far more comfortable and its far more efficient. It’s comfortable because its radiant heat. It isn’t just the floor temperature that is adjusted but also the walls ceiling structure and all the fittings. Everything radiates and retains the required temperature. It provides a constant and gentle adjustment to the. In the winter warm floors mean warm feet. In the summer walking into your house is like walking into a cathedral or a cave. You may need a dehumidifier in summer, or a device that turns the system off if the humidity is high, in order to avoid condensation.
Author: John Wolfendale
Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida Homes and is passionate about bringing modern design and construction practices to Spain. He believes a home which is warm in winter and cool in summer is largely a matter of design and selective use of materials. He is British and a Chartered Surveyor with over 24 years experience living and working in Spain.