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A Florida Home Cooled Without AC

6/24/2011 10:02:18 AM

Tags: passively cooled home in Florida, passive cooling techniques, William Hoffman, The Tropical Architect, passive cooling for tropical homes, cooilng homes without air conditioning, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailWith the Gulf Stream just a few miles off shore, the Florida Keys present the ideal tropical climate for a passively cooled house — one that stays comfortable without air conditioning. In the first post to his new blog, The Tropical Architect, LEED-certified architect William Hoffman proves it can be done.

For this home in the Keys, Hoffman borrowed some tricks from the Florida Seminole Indians, whose open-sided chickee huts were built on elevated platforms and roofed with palmetto fronds. “The open sides offer free air movement through and around the structure, and the thatched roof offers protection from the sun and rain,” Hoffman says.

Hoffman oriented this house on an east-west axis, with the long south façade situated to capture prevailing breezes that are cooled by the ocean, the treetops and a screened porch on the home’s southeast side. The shorter east and west walls minimize the rising eastern sun and intense setting sun. Roof overhangs shade exterior walls and allow windows to remain open during wind-driven tropical rain storms.

Hoffman prefers open walls with screen protection in tropical settings, where ventilation is necessary most of the year. In this house, a covered screen entry space protects the house from sun, rain, insects and animals while collecting as much breeze as possible. Above the stairwell leading to the roof deck, an operable windowed copula creates a “stack” effect to thermally induce air flow, with additional help from a whole house fan when required. Louvered interior doors and transoms promote air movement through the house. A water-tight, insulated and reflective Galvalume metal roof protects the home from the elements.

While these design tricks go a long way toward keeping occupants cool, Hoffman notes that “intangibles such as state of mind and clothing play an important part of staying comfortable.” To live in a tropical climate without AC, he says, you can’t let the heat of the day enter into your psyche. Wear breathable cotton clothing and a broad-brim, ventilated hat.

Check out Hoffman's original blog post for more details about the house.

Passively Cooled House 


Gil Zarin, Architectural Illustration  

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Post a comment below.


Jim Van Damme
8/5/2011 6:52:43 PM
It's a shame that electrical refrigeration is the predominant A/C method. With all that sun, somebody should come up with a decent solar powered absorption cooler.

delight sierra
7/11/2011 11:08:31 AM
I have lived without AC in Florida for going on 4 years now. It is a personal choice because I do not like giving all my hard earned money to the power company. I live on a large property in the "country" and leave all my windows open. We use fans to circulate air and it is not bad at all. I get $50 - $100 power bills while friends and family are paying $200 - $500 per month :( This housing design is great and I would love to try it in a smaller scale (we are trying to go fully off the grid!)

Bill Bullivant
7/8/2011 6:25:10 PM
While the article describes useful design details for a tropical climate, it fails to mention any temperature or humidity data. The title 'cooled without ac' gives the impression that the design yields results comparable to that of conventional air conditioning. Having lived in northwest Florida for a number of years, I am convinced that ability to lower relative humidity is equal in importance to lowering temperature. A location in the Florida Keys is likely to be around 90% humidity and above 80F a large majority of the time. While shading from the sun and capturing available breezes are worthwhile features, neither will lower ambient temperature or relative humidity. Before building a residence in a tropical climate with a similar design, I would strongly encourage spending serious time living in these conditions.

Terry H
7/8/2011 5:54:30 PM
As mentioned....the mindset plays a huge role in keeping cool. I don't seem to suffer the heat as much when I'm down south on vacation as when I'm up in Tn. working in's all relative.

Elaine Williams
7/8/2011 2:39:40 PM
We live in the mountain part of NJ. It gets to 100 degrees sometimes. At night, we open all the windows and put fans in them. Then, in the morning when the sun is getting higher along with the temperature, we close all the windows and lower the shades to keep the heat out. My in-laws have actually asked me to "turn off our air conditioner" because our house is in the 60's to low 70's and are shocked to find out that we don't have one.

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