Pretty Good House Handbook
And What If You're Not In Maine?
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Water Usage
And What If You're Not In Maine?
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Helen Watts, the author
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Most of the recommendations in the Graphic Handbook still apply, but Maine has lots of snow, the frost depth is 4' for most of the state (this is why most Maine houses have basements - it's not just Dad's Man-cave), and we have freeze-thaw conditions at both ends of winter (and sometimes in the middle). The basement hatch is one of the biggest air and thermal leaks in Maine homes. Summers can get muggy, and you must have screens because we have lots of flying biting insects, especially in the spring and early summer. A garage is needed to make your car last longer, then a vestibule is needed to keep the fumes from anything in the garage from getting into the living space.
Maine, and New England, also has more older structures, most of which are timber- or balloon-framed. Keeping the exterior appearance intact is part of keeping the value of these structures - but there's still plenty of options.
When you get to an area that has significant air-conditioning use, you need to watch where the moisture in the air goes and you need to shelter your windows, and your house if you can, from sunlight. The location of the air barrier in the walls changes, and you need to be careful with insulation for ducts.
You may also be in a state which offers tax opportunities or loans for modifying a house to be more efficient.
The price of photovoltaics and the availability of efficient equipment and simple controls - these are all getting better, and contractors are getting better at providing them. Everywhere.
"Window-shaker" air conditioners are energy hogs. Go for a modern air-to-air heat exchanger and get that benefit year-round. If you use a dehumidifier, get one with the best energy rating per volume of water removed. The initial cost will rapidly be engulfed by the electricity required to run it. Head for the EnergyStar website.
Also, we built our house pointed a few degrees east of due south, so that the big roof area was pointed perfectly for solar gain, because we need more energy on those cold mornings. If you live where you need more cooling, you may want to point the roof more towards the south southwest so that when you need power for air conditioning in the late afternoon the sun will be most helpful.

A Pretty Good House for Maine will need some tweaking to be a Pretty Good House for someplace else, but most of the advice in the Graphic Handbook will work. Look at: Windows, Mechanical equipment sizing, How you turn your house to the sun. Your soil conditions and frost depth.

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