Houses that stay warm without fuel and 500 mpg cars

Why does a car need a big motor? Because the car is heavy and it takes power to accelerate it.
Why is the car heavy? Because it needs a heavy motor and lots of steel structure to support it and to deliver all that power.

Amory Lovins has been asking the right questions for 45 years. We don’t need energy—what we need is the services that energy provides. When we start at the back end and design the whole system with the end goals in mind, the energy needed drops dramatically. 

Every pound you take off the body of an electric car (with carbon fiber construction) means the motor can be smaller and lighter, so the battery doesn’t have to be as large, so the motor can be lighter yet….in the end, the power train is so much smaller and cheaper that it more than pays for the carbon fiber body.

When you start super-insulating a house and adding intelligent, adaptive ventilation systems and passive solar design, it adds to the cost, until you get to the point where you don’t need a heating system any more. No furnace, no ducts, no pipes, and all that extra room where those things used to be…A house designed without a heating or cooling system is cheaper than a house with all that extra structure, and it has a zero fuel bill.

Lovins has applied the same principles to industrial design, manufacturing processes and distribution systems, radically decreasing energy use.

It’s not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.  

Edwin Land

2 thoughts on “Houses that stay warm without fuel and 500 mpg cars

  1. There’s some fanciful thinking here that sounds good until you look at practical details, some of which are contradictory. For example, in talking about house design:
    “No furnace, no ducts, no pipes, and all that extra room where those things used to be” imagines that these occupy noticeable living space, even though (except for the furnace, which is quite compact these days) they are mostly inside structural spaces. And it’s a mystery how “adaptive ventilation systems” can be effective without ducts, although good ventilation is essential to a “healthy” house, an understanding that has been amplified by the pandemic.

    Improved energy efficiency has always been a worthy goal and has continued with accelerating advances for a very long time. But there are necessary trade-offs, too. Making cars lighter, for example, reduces the energy required for acceleration and braking but also reduces the momentum that lessens the g-force of an impact.

    • Thanks for your thoughs, Ddwieland. Please keep questioning! I am a long-time fan of Lovins, and I love to talk about his work.

      Heating and cooling ducts take up room even if they’re inside walls. The wall doesn’t have to be as thick if it doesn’t carry ducts.

      Ventilation can be ductless. AI systems that open and close windows at appropriate times to keep the house warm or cool don’t require ducts. Just as important are automatic shade systems that let the sun in when you want the house to be warmer and keep the sun out when you want it cooler.

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