¿ Elephant ? What elephant? Don’t think of an elephant! There is no elephant!* Silently repeat after me: there is no elephant. there is no elephant. there is no elephant. ….. .. .. ………
It occurs to me that a huge savings could easily be realized across the warmer regions of the world by insulating these flat concrete roofs which shade us and keep rain off our heads. The problem is called thermal mass; and the concept is that of absorption-and-release. The more mass an object has, the more energy it can hold and release. Therefore, the concrete ceiling overhead in your bedroom is a gigantic radiator, soaking up solar energy all day, and releasing it overnight into your sleeping quarters. If you don’t believe me, some afternoon climb up and touch an interior ceiling, the other side of which has been baking in the sun. Don’t burn your hand! Insulation is a low-tech answer.
So, rather than paying the carbon industry over-and-over to cool your bedroom, why not pay a local mason just once to prevent it from becoming hot? This idea dropped into my consciousness this morning, after a lovely, restful sleep last night – our bedroom having been cooled by a substantial shower late in the day. As folks from New England say Dawn broke over Marblehead (my gourd) revealing to me the idea of insulating the ceiling against the heat from the roof, which radiates into our sleeping quarters.
Last year we had a mason build a patio roof for a small courtyard, which space was entirely too hot and bright to be of any use. A friend suggested we use a styrofoam material to form the mass of the roof, instead of using concrete, which has been the older practice here. But technology is advancing. A few streets away there is a masonry supply, Angel Verde, which carries styrofoam block panels in various thicknesses, designed to fit between vigas (precast concrete beams). So we used this material to form the major portion of our patio roof, thereby reducing the mass of that overhead “radiator” by many tons. (NB: the foam gets covered with a metal lath called malla, pronounced just like the people, the Maya), and skim-coated with a masonry finish. It can be walked upon, but is not load-bearing for additional floors or stories.) And now this patio space is the coolest, most delightful space of the entire home – and we’ve added screened protectores to keep out skeeters, critters, varmints, and other intruders.
So, my latest curiosity has me researching interior and exterior foam-insulation applications for existing concrete roofing/ceilings, to ward off that herd of elephants (Sol, or Sun) so ready and willing to deliver oppressive heat into our living quarters. If you move in this direction, and learn something worth sharing, please submit a comment for us. For example: be sure you’ve thoroughly addressed any water leaks before insulating from the interior, if that’s how you decide to proceed. And be sure you’ve provided some conduit for electricians to snake wires to various destinations for fans and lighting.
As they say, If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. (And don’t move to Yucatan if you’re not prepared to deal with it! But do come. It’s so lovely!) Energy efficiency and comfort can be improved for the entire planet if we would simply stop throwing money at our problems, and instead, ponder other approaches. But first, define the problem, rather than merely treating a symptom.
*[Media spinmeisters mostly majored in hypnotism, and minored in 3-card monte. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” say they. ] So, dear reader, compare sources. Do your own thinking. Hey! Maybe that elephant is really a Rhinoceros.