by Mikkie Mills
Building your own cabin in a pristine location can be challenging yet deeply rewarding. There are infinite possibilities when working from scratch, but don’t let that overwhelm you. Proper planning is the key to satisfaction. Integrating energy-efficient design is an excellent way to save money in the long run and leave less of an impact on the environment where you choose to build. Check out this advice for getting started.
Passive Solar Design
The best way to conserve energy when designing a home is to collaborate with the sun. By striving to allow as much sunlight as possible into the interior of the cabin, you gain heat and light without ever flipping a switch. There are many elements to assess in this regard, including windows, insulation material, and the way your structure fits into the surrounding topography.
Another main facet of passive solar design is the installation of solar panels and solar batteries. Collecting and storing solar energy in your own personal grid of electricity allows you to get even more remote and can eliminate dependency on other energy sources. Most energy-efficient cabin builders try to implement a solar power system on some scale to maximize savings.
It is essential that you become familiar with the land on which you’ll be constructing your cabin. This is because the cabin’s orientation to the sun has a tremendous effect on its ability to stay warm or cool as needed.
Start by finding or creating a local sun path diagram, which shows the trajectory of the sun across the landscape throughout the day. In most places, this varies by season. Be sure to include any existing or potential obstacles like trees or other buildings. Additionally, taking into account the typical sky conditions helps you to make clever design decisions. People building cabins in areas with regular direct sunlight will want to place windows carefully so as to avoid direct glare, while cabins located in more overcast climates can benefit from skylights that capture bright midday light regardless of cloud cover.
Orientation, of course, impacts the placement of your solar panels as well. Choose the part of your roof that gets the most sunlight year-round — usually the south side (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, that is). Try to remove any major obstructions to your panels, such as trees casting shadows, so they can run at optimal capacity.
Quality insulation is the key to temperature regulation throughout the year, especially if you want to save energy during cold winters. The best part about insulation is that it requires no maintenance, as long as you are meticulous about preventing any gaps up front. A continuous layer of foam insulation is a reliable route to take.
Windows are another crucial consideration when it comes to insulating properly. If you don’t invest in high-caliber windows, you may experience temperature fluctuations and air leaks around them. Even if you have to sacrifice the number or size of windows in order to save money, make an effort to purchase models that won’t cause any problems.
Perhaps you want to go off-grid completely and don’t intend to rely on any conventional energy sources. In that case, you can look into a wood-burning stove for the interior — profoundly cozy on a quiet snow day — and a large propane tank for kitchen necessities like the refrigerator and stove. Geothermal heating is another exceptional option for supplemental warmth and energy conservation. Depending on your location and your budget, you may find that geothermal offers serious advantages for the overall design of your structure.
In general, the best way to save energy in your awesome new cabin is to reduce consumption. Anything you can do to lower your dependence on heating, cooling, electricity, and gas allows you to live more effortlessly in the beauty of your natural surroundings. Plan ahead, stay diligent, and keep it simple, and you are bound to find great success.
Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on natural health cures and news, budgeting hacks, and favorite DIY projects. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing her little ones around or can be found rock climbing at her local climbing gym.