off grid? how to Air condt. in OK

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by okiemom, Jul 18, 2004.

  1. okiemom

    okiemom Well-Known Member

    May 12, 2002
    Hi all,

    To anyone who is totally off grid. How do you deal w/ the heat? We are in N.E. OK and it is so humid and hot that I can't imagine living w/o A/C.

    We are wanting to buy more land but some pieces are not close to electric. I am fine w/ reducing our electric consumption but how do I survive the heat (humidity)? I am fine w/ the cold as long as there are no drafts.

    I did work in a greenhouse and loved teh coolers they had in the cooler houses but the fans were so.... noisy. Granted the fans were 2-3+ feet square. What are swamp coolers for a house like? Thanks K
  2. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 29, 2004
    I don't have any ideas that I know work since we are dealing with the same thing here. Yesterday it was 88 degrees inside the house!

    We are looking into attic fans that will circulate the air up there and hopefully keep the house cooler. They have solar-powered models ($300), so after a couple years it would probably pay for itself in electrical bills.

    I also got an idea of bringing air up from the hand-dug basement, which has to be 10-15 degrees cooler, using a fan and flexible hosing. There might be a probelm here with a musty smell and we think the cats have been down there doing what cats like to do in the dirt.

    We currently bring the cooler night air into the house via fans (but of course these use electricity), then close up the house completely that morning. This works well, IF the nights are cooler. We have been able to get the inside temp down to the low 70s in the morning hours.

    They also make solar-powered ceiling fans.

    Just some ideas, albeit maybe not good ones!

  3. RobinAnn

    RobinAnn Well-Known Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    Kline, CO
    Swamp coolers work well only in dry climates. If you have significant humidity, all a swamp cooler will do is raise the humidity more.
  4. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

    May 20, 2004
    SE Missouri
    You can't use a swamp cooler in OK. You may be able to set up an indirect evaporative cooler, but I think you would need electric for it. Are you planning on solar or wind or a combo?

    You can do cool tubes. They are pipes buried at least 4 ft underground and the air is pulled thru them into the house. They drop the temp of the air. Supposed to drop it close to what the yearly average temp is. I think an underground dome or a well built strawbale home would work well with the cool tubes. You will want most of your window on the south side and a few on east and north, none on the west. It helps to put shutters on the outside of any windows that would get direct sun and make sure the doors are well insulated. In the mountains I was able to get by pretty well in an insulated house by letting it cool way down at nite then closing up for the day and blocking direct gain thru windows.
  5. Absorptive air conditioners that run on natural gas or propane used to be popular but haven't been manufactured in the US for years. Someone told me about 5 years ago that they were still manufactured in europe, but I suspect it was just a vaporware report because I was never able to confirm that.

    However, York has developed a completely different natural gas air conditioning & heating solution that is currently marketed as the Triathlon system. I'm not sure if it can be retrofitted to run on propane. The power comes from a single-cylinder internal combustion engine that runs on natural gas. Note however that this is a premium system and the up-front investment is substantial (~$10K). Here is a reference link to the product:

    All things considered the evaporative cooler isn't a bad solution if your climate is suitable. I do know that many people in Oklahoma use them.
  6. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

    Aug 4, 2003
    Zone Unknown
    I say build underground. :) Not only will that be cooler, but it will provide protection from our storms ( :rolleyes: ).

    I'm not sure where you are in NE Ok, but I'm also in NE Ok. The main problem I see to building underground around here is our high water table. However, where I am, it is also extremely hilly --- you could try building into the side of a hill or --- if you're not hilly there --- build on top of the ground and then bury your home. I've seen a number of homes in this area built into hills or buried. Some are fairly old but nicely maintained, so it seems it's an idea which works around here.

    Strawbale would also work, but might not provide as much protection against storms.

    Evaporative coolers are not a good idea in this part of Oklahoma.
  7. Okiemom, I'm not sure on your age but when I was a kid hardly anybody had A/C in there house. Except for in town where rich people lived. But I remember when I was a kid everyone hanged out under the shade trees more than inside the house. They even done a lot of there cooking outside.
  8. Shiny metal roof. The last thing you want is a dark roof. Also, protect the sides of the house from direct sun exposure, with shrubs or preferably a porch all the way around. Make sure the house is well insulated; and ventilate the house during the day with a fan exhausting into the attic. Make sure there is an air inlet (screened window, facing north) and high gable or roof vents so the air can escape. Don't ventilate overnight; you'll draw in fog and dew and create a huge problem with humidity.
    Screen in part (or all) of that porch so you can spend late afternoon/early evening out there, so you're not heating the house with your body heat. Cook out there, too. Maybe even move your fridge out there; either gas or electric fridge puts out a lot of heat. Minimizing the amount of heat you add to the house in the evening will keep the house much cooler when it's time to turn in.


    [To anyone who is totally off grid. How do you deal w/ the heat? We are in N.E. OK and it is so humid and hot that I can't imagine living w/o A/C.

    We are wanting to buy more land but some pieces are not close to electric. I am fine w/ reducing our electric consumption but how do I survive the heat (humidity)? I am fine w/ the cold as long as there are no drafts.

    I did work in a greenhouse and loved teh coolers they had in the cooler houses but the fans were so.... noisy. Granted the fans were 2-3+ feet square. What are swamp coolers for a house like? Thanks K[/QUOTE]
  9. okiemom

    okiemom Well-Known Member

    May 12, 2002
    Thanks for all the responses,

    I am in my late 20's so I'm just a spoiled puppy and think I have to have A/C ;) :eek: . When the temp hits 80 in the house the units come on and don't go off until the night temps get down to low 70's.Then I have the doors open as much as possible.

    I love colorado and Ont, Canada. The days might get to 90+ but at least the nights get cool enough to sleep. Anyone for migration like the birds:eek: :haha: ?
  10. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Apr 30, 2002
    North Alabama
    dig a hole and stay in the basement. You could also lay a geotunnel apump ground cooled air into the dwelling
  11. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    central idaho republic
    A monolithic dome house may be the ticket for those who need a cooler house in a hotter area, similar in design to an underground house, it is made entirely of concrete either above or below ground. One of our internet customers builds a house by filling a bqag with air and spraying on a concrete and flyash mixture which in the end makes a monolith type strucure but can be really different in looks. The cost of such a structure is about the same as building stick frame and you end up with a near bomb shelter type house, tornado resistant to almost proof they tell me, but tornados are not a major concern here, only a couple in the past 25 years is all.

    the thread on thinshell concrete structures may give you more info as to what im trying to spit out. if you want to email someone who builds these type of structures holler at me [PM] and i will put you in touch with my customers [a father and son team].

    as for off grid anything expense is the underling factor, it takes alot of battery units to run something in the line of A/C because most of them pull close to 15 amps when running, which will deplete a reserve in short order...... L-16 batteries at my wholesale cost are over $160.00 plus delivery, it takes 2 to make a 12 volt system minimum, and to run our wireless broadband towers we have 6 batteries just to run a computer tower and a couple of 1 amp ampliefiers.... 3 120 watt solar panels and a airex wind charger, and on top of that we use a gas genset when it is cloudy or late fall to early spring.

    An old RV airconditioner might help you out, they are designed to run on a genset, usually a 4000 watt Onan, but that still uses fosil fuel and it would get expensive. A heat pump with coils buried underground to about 10 feet deep would effectively cool a house and also heat it during the winter, while normal heat pumps are only effective to about 35 degrees, and to about 85 as a high, buried coils at 10 feet will stay at about 55 constant year round, i am not sure what kind of power these draw, and maybe close to the same as an A/C unit, worth checking into. I know a fella who designed a unit that went inside his septic tank back in the late 70's but found that the buried coils were better as a septic stays to warm to effectively cool the house as much.

  12. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

    Jun 25, 2002
    If you have an existing house you want to modify I'd suggest a combination of cool tubes and erecting a cupola or better, a thermal chimney at the opposite side of the building. This will create a natural convection effect in the home drawing in cooled air and pulling all the hot air out of the home through the chimney. The system is completely passive so once built there is no cost to you.

    There are some folks that speak ill of cool tubes however. There is thought that cool tubes could bring in radon into the home (if that is a concern of yours) and that in some climates the cool tube could develop molds inside them which would be unhealthy to draw into the home. Personally I think those risks are minimal and addressable but I thought I'd share them and let you decide for yourself. If you didn't want to do cool tubes, you certainly could forgo them and just put the thermal chimney on the opposite side of the home from the prevailing wind and draw directly from windows or purpose made vents.

    Hope that helps some.

  13. It is all a matter of acclimating. We are off grid, but, before we left, we made a few changes.
    First, I added on to the house and built a bedroom DOWNstairs on the shaded corner of the house. Big step forward.
    Second, we quit using the fan by increments. Used to be we could not sleep without the hum.
    Third, a cool shower or swim in the pond right before bed to drop body temperature.
    Even the 80 degree nights are bearable now. Bearly.


    ps....a small diesel engine burning a low cost blend of used oils and kerosene would run a large enough genset 24/7 to keep you in the lap of luxury. We haven't yet justified the effort for full time, but the cost would likely be comparable, if not cheaper than "the grid" in the long run.
  14. 12vman

    12vman Offgridkindaguy

    Feb 16, 2004
    Out in the Boonies.. In Ohio
  15. DW

    DW plains of Colorado Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    plains of Colorado
    I grew up 6 blocks from the Mississippi w/o air but didn't even notice how hot because our house had 12 ft. ceilings and many trees. I've now lived in CO for over 30 yrs. and think I'm dying f/humidity when we visit there. We built our home here in CO and we also have 12 ft. ceilings downstairs and rarely need our air.
  16. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    Its not the heat, but the humidity that is killer for me. Here in NW ARK, around July most years (this is weird year weatherwise) I put little air conditioner in window so I can sleep without sticking to the sheets (havent had to yet this year). Before the airconditioner, I just hoped August got here soon and everything brown and dry as dust as it does most years. When everything turns super dry then it cools significantly at night just like in desert.

    Pay attention to how older pre-air, pre-electric houses were built and oriented. There was a reason they had super tall ceilings. They also oriented their houses for breezes. When growing up in Iowa (hot humid summers also) there was a local little church. Most comfortable place in summer. It was on little hill about quarter mile east from a north-south running large creek. Hill just slow rise from creek bottom. Open those west windows in that church and you got such a nice breeze. Didnt need air conditioner or fan any which way. Course there is a price to pay. It then is a bugger to heat in winter. Low ceilings and protected is best for heating.
  17. chickflick

    chickflick Well-Known Member

    Oct 20, 2003
    I live in Texas and have thought and thought about this 'little' problem a great deal! My only REAL solution was to consider a complete 'overhaul' and start over.. which I may not realize in my lifetime.. BUT.. the solution is:

    Underground Housing.. by Gary Oehler

    Now.. pay attention.. this guy is NOT just about digging a hole in the south side of a hill,okay.. HE has some REALLY innovative, well thought out plans including views, ventilation, and light.... and if you get the videos after you read the book.. you'll be taken through the process step by step to design your own underground house. It's money you'll never regret spending!

    Good luck! Hope you're young enough to pull it off!!! :worship:
  18. Mudwoman

    Mudwoman Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2002
    My mom grew up in Mississippi and Alabama. I grew up in TX. We never had a/c until I was almost grown. I think back and the houses didn't seem hot.

    High ceilings.

    Windows that raised from the bottom and came down from the top. You raised the bottom for air to come in and the top down allowed the hot air to go out.

    Fans with block ice in front of them on really hot days.

    Summer kitchen for cooking so as not to heat up the house.
  19. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jun 6, 2004
    Michigan's thumb
    I'm not off grid. I suspect you will need some energy source to pump your water. Have you thought of in-floor heating? The system is very popular in Europe. Tubes lie under the floor and warm water moves through the tubes for heat. To cool things down, you let the water bypass the water heater, so cool water moves through the tubes. You can use a the regular water heater you already have for domestic hot water to heat the floor water. Water from a well is plenty cold to cool down the house.

    Our first floor, which is the garage, is concrete. The tubes were laid down prior to pouring the concrete. The second floor is laminiate, and the tubes were stapled under the subfloor prior to nailing up the drywall ceiling of the garage. There's no need to cool the garage, it's like a basement. The second floor will heat up, however.

    We've never used the infloor to cool the house, this is only our second summer here and my husband is leery of messing with the plumbing. I think next summer he will probably switch over when it starts to get really hot.

    If you have a nice shade tree on the east side of the house, and another on the west side, you may never need an ac more than a few days of the year. However, an ac will pull the water out of the air, something trees and infloor cooling do not do.
  20. okiemom

    okiemom Well-Known Member

    May 12, 2002
    houses and buildings today are not built for summer living. my mom lives in a ranch that had the windows painted shut so we went from heat to air ONLY.I never knew what a cross breeze was until I moved to our 100+ year old house.

    For 4 years I did live in Stillwatwer in an old Dormatory that didn't have A/C. School started in early Aug so until the second week in Sept (first cool front) It was HOT. I lived on various south exposures and eventually had a corner room w/ two windows to cross vent. the walls were thick brick, plastered inside. West wall had trees.

    Live was mostly great until they brought cable to the individual rooms. That put a stop to everyone haveing their room open and then we BAKED.

    We delt w/ the heat by:

    ice cold showers before bed
    fans in the windows blowing in one and out another
    moving slowly and getting little done ( is that possible or accepted in America to not be as productive or maximize output as much as possible :eek: )
    chatting on the stoop
    hanging out in the TV room which was a small room w/ window unit
    This was all pre kids when I could be a lounge lizard and I did not have to share a bed w/ another hot body

    the day was spent in an A/C building in class

    thanks all for the comments and ideas i am remembering that I did survive and thrive w/O a/c for a while. Maybe I'm not such a wimp.

    the house we were wanting to build would be metal frame and sheeting for the outside. We are tired of termites ( if you live in a wooden house in OK you will have termites at some point). We are wanting large overhang w/ a deep porch for screening and lots of windows for a view.That would work for ventilation as well. The roof would be white and the sides a tan. I was wanting to have the inside very easy to maintain/clean like resturants.Concreate floors and plumbing that is not in the slab. This making a remodle easy. I was talking about puting the A/C ducts exposed in the ceiling instead on in the slab (high groundwater). I have been looking at commercial building and like some of the ideas that they have.