Creating a Resilient Home: Page 4 of 5

Intermediate

Inside this Article

In a heating-dominated climate, solar gain and good insulation can keep a home cozy without much energy.
In a cooling-dominated climate, earth-coupling and shading the home from the sun can make a home comfortable without much energy input.
With its Secure Power Supply feature, SMA America’s line of TL-US inverters can provide up to 1.5 kW of AC power when the grid is down but the sun is shining.
Portable solar power systems can provide emergency power for communication, lighting, and battery charging.
This AC-coupled system includes battery backup, integrated with a batteryless grid-tied photovoltaic system.
A solar water heating system can often provide adequate hot water, even without utility power.
Solar ovens like the StarFlower can bake without combustible fuel and without heating up the home.
The same energy that grows your fruits and vegetables can also dry your harvest.
Solar pumping systems can be AC-powered, DC-powered, or PV-direct (batteryless).
Having on-site rainwater collection and storage is a valuable addition to a home’s resiliency.
Electric cars are becoming more commonplace, and can be charged directly from solar-electric systems.
Electric-powered vehicles come in many sizes and shapes to meet different needs of range, climate, load capacity, and charging resource.

Flood Resilience

When considering home locations, avoid places prone to flooding. Significant building restrictions apply in FEMA 100-year flood zones (places expected to flood, on average, once every 100 years—or that have a 1% chance of flooding in any given year). Avoid these locations when building, as per codes, insurability, and resilience. But it makes a lot of sense to go further and avoid the 500-year flood zones (places with a 0.2% chance of flooding in any particular year).

Elevate mechanical & electrical equipment. To protect equipment, keep mechanical and electrical equipment out of basements and above flood elevations. FEMA typically calls for mechanical equipment to be installed (or moved) above the base flood elevation (BFE), defined as the 100-year flood elevation. For greater resilience, go well beyond that—keep mechanical equipment at least 5 feet above that elevation (BFE+5), or at least 2 feet above the 500-year flood elevation.

Relocating mechanical equipment may be an opportunity to upgrade that equipment or even rethink how you heat and cool your home. It could be an opportunity, for example, to replace an aging furnace with a high-efficiency air-source heat pump. Improvements to the building envelope can often mean a smaller heat pump, with less energy consumption.

Implement wet floodproofing measures, which allow floodwaters to enter and flow through a house. While seemingly counterproductive, this strategy protects the house from potentially more-damaging forces from the water, which can collapse walls. In flood-prone areas, keep living areas well above the base flood elevation by building on piers or leaving openings in the concrete foundation walls to allow water to enter. Breakaway walls can be added that floodwaters will easily push aside. That floodable, ground-level space can be used as a carport or for storage. In flood-prone areas, full basements are best avoided.

Wet floodproofing measures also include using interior materials that can get wet and then dry out again without being damaged or growing mold. This means avoiding cellulosic materials, such as wood floors, wood subflooring, and paper-faced drywall. If floodwaters are expected to last for more than a day during flood events, even wood studs should be avoided in favor of metal studs. Wall coverings and paneling should also be avoided, as they can trap water. Materials that can get wet and then dry out include concrete floors, tile floors, and fiberglass-faced drywall.

When fuel tanks are in a floodable basement or ground-level space beneath an elevated living area, they should be securely anchored to concrete. This will prevent them from floating and breaking pipes that connect them to heating systems.

Comments (1)

Frank Heller's picture

You seem to forget the most resilient system is one which can be maintained and repaired by the home owner; including redundancy. The more rural your residence, the more widespread the disaster--storms, floods, ice storms, etc. the harder it will be to get your dealer/installer to your place esp. if you aren't plowed out or your power is out for several days.

When all factors are weighed the propane or natural gas fueled backup generator is the one left standing. ....care for a photo of a rack of PV panels on a neighbor's house covered with ice and snow, and left that way for weeks?

Another impact is the effect of 'smart meters' which can be moderated from outside your home, altering the flow of power to it; or other grid restrictions on the flow of power into the grid under net metering

Local hydro-powered grids distributing power to restored mill buildings or small mill 'villages' are being seriously considered in Maine. Properly designed they can withstand flooding and even droughts; there are thousands of tidal mill sites which are immune to most disaster and use fairly simple technology like efficient water wheels powered by either flowing water or impounded water. They operate like they did in the 15th century with a large impound and a metered flow that is released during low tide.

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