I live in Arizona and was doing laundry the other day when it dawned on me, since it’s 115 degrees outside, why don’t they make a dryer that sucks the hot air in from outside to dry clothes?
What if we could modify the molecular structure of tree leaves to create electricity instead of oxygen? Of course this would be done in a lab before planting and then the tree would simply grow into an energy producing machine. Then imagine if the new trees it produced would also produce electricity without any further intervention by humans. You could theoretically produce farms of electricity producing trees.
Why is it that home temperatures seem to be at odds with the surrounding weather and most of the time counter intuitively? Example; It’s a nice October day here in Arizona it’s about 80 degrees during the day which means the AC runs to keep my house at around 76. No big deal, but then at night it starts cooling off dramatically and the outside temperature quickly plummets to around 60. But not my house, instead it starts shedding all of the residual heat it built up from being baked by the sun all day and takes another 4 hours to normalize.
My point is this, why don’t homes have a system where they automatically detect the outside temperature and somehow vent the internal air and replace it with the outside air to bring the temperature either down or up as one desires? To me this could be as simple as have air transfer points high and low on the structure for air transfer.
On a side but related note, if the ground remains an almost constant fixed temperature why couldn’t we simply sink metal rods deep into the ground and have them come up in the walls of the house? Wouldn’t these rods at as a natural heating/cooling system of sorts?
Speaking of cooling, everyone knows things under shade are about 10-15 degrees cooler, so why not build giant tarp type shades over homes? Wouldn’t this in effect cool them down naturally? Sure it would look funny as heck but not once they got their first electric bill in summer and realized it saved them 20% or more.
I’ve had these ideas running through my heads for decades now on what would be my dream house and I had an overwhelming desire to put them down on paper.
These are in no particular order and some may be little more than running thoughts.
Construction / Location
Underground – It must be either partially or completely underground. The idea scenario would be to purchase some property with a couple of nice rolling hills and build into the side of one. Being a survival nut at heart I would also love to have it built where a natural cave system exists and incorporate this into the home design.
The immediate advantages I see to this are:
- Heating and Air Conditioning: The cost to heat and/or cool this house would be almost nil And the house would be perfect, anywhere because of the natural temperature normalization gained by being underground. Of course the more “underground” it is the better.
- Construction Cost: The cost to build and maintain this home would be reduced. Underground homes don’t need outside painting, shingles, stucco or any other cosmetic touches. The only exception to this would be the giant glass windows I would have projecting out from the side of the hill. These would likely be the main living area and if done in a “loft” style, would also serve to illuminate the upstairs rooms as well. There is only one drawback I see to this and that’s the impact of any major incident where I would want to isolate the house/compound from outsiders. Glass windows would offer a very tempting target and would be the weak link in the house design. This would have to be compensated with some sort of cover or metal grates that could be moved into place. (from the inside would be best to reflect any flying glass, etc.)
This home would be almost completely made out of concrete and steel. I would want to refrain from using wood as much as possible due to its short lifespan. I know you think that will look Spartan but trust me, there will be tons of real plants in the home to offset this.
By this I don’t just mean electric can openers and toasters, I mean TRUE automation. This section will be length and very far-fetched but I am not proposing anything that I don’t think can be done with off the shelf technology. Quite simply I want my house to be, well alive. What I mean by that is I want to be able to talk and have my commands responded to, even acted upon. But how does one do that? It’s not all that difficult. Speach recognition has come a long way these days. Here is what I want it to do and I will expand on the “how” later:
- Lighting: Light areas of the house as I move through them
- Heating and Cooling: Automatically adjust heating and cooling
- Control Electricity: Turn off unnecessary electric items when not in use. For instance, I go to the rest room and leave the fan on, I would like the computer (SAL, from 2010 a Space Odyssey. I would have picked HAL from 2001, but he was evil) to turn off the fan after a preset time. The amount of time would not be simply programmed but “learned”. More on this later.
- Play Music: I want to be able to tell SAL something like “SAL music please” and if I don’t specify she would ask for me to expand on the request by maybe giving me options or making a suggestion. Heck would be even better if she could ask my mood and pick something based on my answer. What would be cutting edge, is if I told her happy and she accessed a study done by a major think tank on music and its effects and selected something to compliment or help my mood. Once accessed, SAL would add the information to her catalog for future reference, but set a reminder to search / verify it’s information at night during our sleep time (SAL’s research time).
- Security: Unlock doors based on my physical characteristics and voice print analysis.
- Cameras: Control a network of cameras to do the following:
a) Monitor the house and property for unauthorized personnel
b) Recognize and catalog our friends data and be able to announce their arrival before they actually get to the door.
c) Archive video for future playback and to make home movies. Literally
- News: Monitor news reports for major events or any subject directed to watch and announce them to us. This would also be a learned thing. For instance, SAL announces that a certain actress fell off her bike and asks me afterwards if I would like future reports for this actress. SAL would also be able to use AI to determine the difference between falling off a bike and death for instance, in which case her logic would override my “no” from before and announce this.
- On a basic level, if I go to leave I would ask SAL to plot a course for my destination and then send it to the GPS in the car. Better yet, all I should have to say is “SAL I’m going to go to the store” and she would automatically do certain steps to prepare for the journey.
- If it’s to the store it wouldn’t require a lot of preparation, but a trip across country would be different. I would seriously want SAL to have the ability to book my flights, rental car and hotel all based on a combination of my personal preferences and reviews she finds online at night (again, her research time)
- Preparation even for a simple trip would include checking the status of the cars systems and the car would be most certainly be automated as well (electric) and tie into the house system for diagnosing, electrical status, reminders for maintenance, etc. On that note, if the car were due maintenance, I would want SAL to be able to actually schedule the appointment and if the event of an error noted during diagnostics, to be able to research the cause and possible solution.
- If I don’t ask for this then she should inquire as to my destination as I go to leave and then warn me of any impending weather issues that I might face. You realize this scenario works for just going to the store or flying across country. If you haven’t figured this out by now, SAL is the cornerstone of my idea home.
- It goes without saying, and yet I am, that SAL should know in advance if the car doesn’t have a sufficient charge or needs gas to reach the final destination and these things should be sent to the cars on-board systems.
- Speaking of on-board systems, I should be able to access SAL from the car via a cell phone link (Bluetooth?) and on board Wi-Fi.
- TV: Like the dumb DVR of today, SAL would be able to automatically record shows I specify and even shows she thinks I will like based on past experience. Yes this system will LEARN and then react.
- Groceries/Supplies: SAL will monitor all food (bar code scanner) and supplies that come into and out of the house. And produce a detailed grocery list at any given time. Of course SAL would also have already scanned the prices / specials at local stores and have an estimated cost and direct you to stores with the best price. (again, more night time research)
Electric: The home would get its electricity from various sources, like solar, wind, water (nearby stream/river?) etc. It goes without saying that I would use fluorescent or maybe LED lighting, but I thought I would say it anyway.
Recycling: This home will have almost ZERO (0) waste that is not used or recycled. Of course aluminum, paper, plastic are all givens, but I mean almost 100% including water used. Let me expand:
Water: Water that is used in sinks, laundry, baths would be recaptured (grey water) and reused for watering the lawn, flushing the toilets, etc.
Food: Items not eaten would be used for mulch and compost for use in our underground greenhouse (more on this later)
Electric? Ok this idea just came to me and it’s a bit crazy, but isn’t lighting wasted electricity? Couldn’t one theoretically place solar cells in the house to “recapture” this wasted electricity? I’m thinking this is very cost prohibitive but maybe when the price of solar cells comes down it will be reasonable to do? I feel like I’m missing something on this idea or heck, maybe it’s some strange super idea like the hula-hoop.
Paper: Paper would be recycled but I’m not entirely sure if it would be for our own personal use or sent off in the recycle can? I mean when I grew up, people would take paper and roll it into these compact logs for burning. I’m just not sure how effective or environmentally sound this is.
Green House: Yes you heard correct, I want the house to have an underground greenhouse. Of course we both know it can’t be completely underground, but imagine a green house where the only thing that shows on the surface is the a-frame glass top. If you think about it, it’s a great idea because the underground greenhouse would benefit from the same temperature stabilization that the rest of the house would. It would also be nearly 100% free of bugs and insect infestations. Now for the survivalist nuts out there, you might also consider the fact that it would act as an air cleaner / oxygen maker for the entire home as well. Not to mention the benefits of having fruits and vegetables fresh the whole year round.
Plants: The greenhouse section was a perfect segue into my next section which is plants. I don’t just want to have plants in planters around the house, but instead have them be part of the house. For instance the main living room with the big glass windows could have plants growing out of specially designed floor planters that are recessed in the floor. This would give the illusion that they are actually planted in the ground and would limit their growth due to root constriction. Also a really beautiful vine type plant that would grow up and around the room would be incredible. My luck I would pick poison oak. J
Fire Suppression/Water Storage: This isn’t very high tech, but I do want my house to have a sprinkler system in case of fire. This would be fed from storage tanks that are also used for drinking water, watering the green house, etc. These water tanks would be constantly being recycled due to use, but in the event of an emergency the thousands of gallons they would hold would be useful for survival. Of course SAL would monitor them for cleanliness and maintain water levels. There could also be two systems, one for grey water and one for clean water, but the grey water one would require constant monitoring to prevent any sort of bacteria forming. Maybe bleach or ozone injections?
I guess I was on a painting kick when I came up with this and the previous idea, so bear with me. Imagine having paint that would act like a solar panel and actually convert light to power. You could literally capture ambient light in a house and pump the power back into the household grid. Sure there would be a significant loss, but just capturing a little would have a serious impact.
Take this a step further and paint the outside of your house with the same paint and imagine every surface of your house generating electricity.
All cars produce excess power while operating. How about putting a tesla type coil on the roof and have a receptor cable over freeways? In this way the cars excess power could be directly transferred to adjacent communities. I honestly think the return would be phenomenal.
Update: On further thought, with the popularity of electric vehicles how about a system that could zap a quick power charge as they drove past. In this way modern gas guzzlers could contribute something back to the more environmentally friendly cars.
This was an original idea I came up with around 2005. I’ve since learned that several companies are actually doing something along these lines.
Solar energy machine – imagine a lot of tubes in a rectangular structure. Then position thousands of small magnifying lenses over top of the tubes with the sun focused on the tubes through them. The tubes would be filled with a liquid and the concentrated rays would create steam. The steam would power a generator and then the liquid would be cooled and returned to the tubes. This would effectively create clean energy with zero emissions. A setup like this in the deserts of Arizona could be very effective.
I think that the possibilities around “green” energy are very fascinating and I find a lot of my ideas center around the ways we can limit our use of finite resources.
Follow-up: Can a beam of light be focused twice? What I mean is can a beam of light that’s been passed through a magnifying glass be passed through another to enhance/amplify it somehow?