THAT GIANT RADIATOR IN THE ROOM

¬Ņ Can't take the heat?

¬Ņ Can’t take the heat ?

¬Ņ 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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.

 

 

 

HOME‚ÄďSWEET‚ÄďJUNGLE

 

Look what's growing in our backyard

Look what’s growing in our backyard!

We’re back in Merida, and rather stunned at the rampant growth of weeds and vines in our little corner of barrio Santiago. A fellow expat has reported that rainfall this season has been twice¬†normal.¬†But that needs to be translated into statistical speech, as a friend has pointed out. (Normal and average are not the same concept; and normal has a considerable range.) Water is the best fertilizer on the planet; and stuff grows! Before I share a photo of the source of the delectable fruit, above, I’ll reveal the jungle I had to brave in order to harvest it. (Presently I’ve not been inclined to bring in a gardener while away; last year wasn’t so bad, but this year was shocking.)

The green machine took over

The green machine took over

The pool is rather private now

The pool is rather private now

We added some vines and a tall trellis atop the wall, to provide a visual barrier. The vines are doing the job nicely, but other wild things crashed the party, and will soon be removed. I’m delighted to report that my efforts to control mosquitoes were amazingly effective. I provided our manager with a biological control to add weekly to the swamp which accumulated unavoidably inside the pool. I’m happy to report that I spent an hour standing shirtless in the pool while cleaning, and didn’t get a single bite. Nor did I see any larvae in the water. ¬†This product is excellent. It’s nontoxic, except to mosquitoes, disrupting the balance in their gut with a little bug which harms them alone.

Yes, we have no bananas, yet

Yes, we have no bananas, yet

Our friend Douglas gave us a banana plant which was about four feet tall when we parked it out back. That was maybe February. It rocketed up and is already heavy with fruit. I gave another to each of two adjoining neighbors to enhance the privacy of the back yard, and they are both thriving. And a different variety was also planted far to the rear of our yard which is not bearing yet, as it is somewhat shaded. 

That fruiting succulent

That fruiting succulent

These cactus-like arms sprawl from the limestone walls of Yucatan, providing a delicious fruit in September, if the birds don’t hollow them out first. (We found several empties.) They are called pitaya, but also known locally as¬†dragon fruit. I am tempted to call them Eye of Cyclops. They require little or no soil, sending out roots in the air, to wend their way into crevices in the stone. The taste is sweet but subtle, and the little black seeds are about the size and shape of sesame seeds, and are soft but pleasantly crunchy.¬†

Here's lookin' at you!

Here’s lookin’ at you!

 

 

¬°¬° SAVE THE EARTH !!

 

NASA Apollo 8 Photo, via Wikimedia

NASA Apollo 8 Photo, via Wikimedia

WOW,¬†what a radical idea!¬†A recently hatched project to heal and restore our planet is well underway, funded by several people of means and vision. This idea¬†was blogged about today by Tom Toles, editorial cartoonist at Washington Post. Perhaps there is now a basis for hope that we can forestall a sixth great extinction!¬†For 10,000 years, humankind has been repeating the same failed experiment, a virtual pyramid scheme of stealing natural resources from future generations, to enjoy the bounty of the land, until it becomes a desert ‚Äď then moving on. (Will Rogers once instructed:¬†Buy land. They aren’t¬†making¬†any more of it.) Indeed! And I can’t remember when I’ve felt more encouraged about the direction of things.