Building Passively Heated and Cooled Houses

Jesse Savell builds passively heated and cooled houses with concrete walls and insulating panels on the outside of the walls to radically control temperature inside the house.

| November/December 1977

A homesteader discovers a way to build passively heated and cooled houses using concrete walls and insulating panels on the outside of the walls to control the home's temperature.

Building Passively Heated and Cooled Houses

There are an awful lot of "instant expert" promoters of "energy efficient" houses around today. And, almost to a man, they seem to be boasting about how the homes they've built-with little, teenie, double-glazed windows and "extra" insulation stuffed into the walls — can save 10 to 20 percent of an "ordinary" (the kind they built last year) structure's use of energy.

Well, a savings of 10 to 20 percent is better than a poke with a sharp stick. But it's nothing compared to the whopping 60 percent and larger savings (of both winter heating and summer cooling power demands) that a mild-mannered contractor from Colton, California is now ringing up by building passively heated and cooled houses.

Believe it or not, that contractor — Jesse J. Savell, Jr. — has originated a patented system of construction that makes a building "want" to maintain a comfortable interior temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees Fahrenheit . . . automatically . . . with hardly any supplemental heating or cooling at all . . . without unduly large or small windows or any other "sore thumb gimmicks" tacked onto its design . . . without even being underground (like the Andy Davis house featured in MOTHER NO. 46).

In short, a Savell System dwelling accomplishes all its magic energy savings — and a great deal more — without looking "strange" or in any way different from the kind of housing that we've all grown used to. And the cost of one of these "wonder structures" — complete on a city lot, in the suburbs, or out on your favorite patch of country land — is directly competitive with today's "standard" (and rather sleazy) wooden-framed dwellings!

Jesse Savell has a Home Building Secret

The secret of Jesse Savell's energy saving homes closely parallels the old/new design philosophy of architect David Wright (see The Plowboy Interview in MOTHER NO. 47). Wright, as you'll probably recall, has learned to construct houses of native materials so attuned to their micro-climates and so cleverly thought-out . . . that they're frequently 90 percent or more self-heating and self cooling on a year-round basis. And one of David Wright's most important design rules-of-thumb is: "Build your home like a 'thermos bottle. Put its insulation on the outside, just under a weather skin-and keep all its heavy masses inside. When you isolate them from the summer's heat 'and the winter's cold that way, they become gigantic thermal flywheels that help you coast right through the seasonal and daily temperature changes that buffet the exterior of your building."

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