How “cool” is COOL?

23 Jul

Many of you know that my family is building a home out of steel shipping containers.  In fact, it’s been a long trip down the “you’re either crazy or just plain stupid” road, if   my email is any indication.

You see, not many people in the mainstream actually see the merit in building a house out of Corten Steel boxes, piled one on top of the other. I suspect that those same people don’t get the luxury of experiencing heavy weather and hurricanes, annually.

Around here, each storm that rolls through leaves a pile of flotsam and jetsam in it’s wake, and then… years later, we’re still not rebuilt to anything that resembled “normal” the days previous to the hurricane.

So, I thought to myself;

“Self… if I wanted a house that was relatively impervious to weather, where would I start?”

And then it hit me, like my wife’s left jab…

I’d build a house out of solid steel. And what better way to build a weather resistant house, than to start with a weather resistant box, eh?

Shipping containers are solid Corten Steel boxes DESIGNED to repel Mother Nature’s wrath…

And they’re laying around everywhere.


Because. That’s why!

Stop asking so many questions! You know how easily my attention gets diverted! 🙂

Actually, it’s because of the trade deficit, and some rather poor thinking on the part of those poltroons in DC. If they’d insisted on “balanced trade” with other nations, we wouldn’t have a stockpile of these boxes sitting around blocking out the sun!

But, their stupidity is our gain, eh?

So, here we are… we’re building a house, out of steel boxes, that will keep us safe, and dry, and best of all… with a few bucks left in our pockets at the end of construction.

If you’ve been following the blog to date, you already know all of that.

But, the number one question I get in my email is;

“How in Gawd’s name are you gonna survive the heat of a metal box? You live in the South, you idiot!”

Okay, that’s not the number one question…

The number one question (based on my most recent poll) is;

“How far is your head stuck up your _______?” 🙂

First, let me point out that a man my age isn’t flexible enough for any “anatomical impossibilities,” so the answer is “About Zero.”

Second, just because I’m smart enough to see a solution to a problem that other’s don’t see, doesn’t make me an “idiot.” It makes me an “idiot savant.” At least according to my wife, and a few neighbors that are still speaking to us. 🙂

Okay, back to the question of the day;

“How do you make a shipping container livable?”

Well, you do it just like you’d do it for any other type of housing. You use insulation, and then… you use HVAC.

My insulation goes on the OUTSIDE of my boxes, and then, they get covered up in “skin.” In my case, we’re talking stucco, stone veneer, and siding.

(Yes, I’ll use a vapor barrier, smarty pants… I didn’t forget.)

The rigid insulation will go outside the boxes because it doesn’t make any sense to put it inside, and make a small place even smaller. Capish?

The roof (and possibly even the side panels) will get SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels),  and that will insure that my R values are really high. Everything will get enough caulking to silence “even the loudest of In-Laws…” and then… we’ll condition the inside space.

But how will we do that? I mean, A/C is expensive in the South! Oy Freakin Vey! Using A/C will cool off your house, but it’ll keep your kids outta college! 🙂

So, here’s what WE’RE doing;

I may be a pig, but I’m a smart pig. I need A/C and even heating, but I need to be able to afford it. How am I gonna do that without becoming a slave to those bastards over at Mississippi Power?

By using “Geothermal Energy,” that’s how!

Geothermal energy is without a doubt, one of the world’s Greenest Heating and Cooling Systems.

Say it with me… I know you wanna…


If you’re looking for an efficient, cost effective, and environmentally friendly heating/cooling system, then a geothermal heat pump is the greenest way to go.

Don’t believe me? Well, go look here… to learn the facts about geothermal energy, from those EPA guys.

The EPA studies energy efficiency

Even the EPA was smart enough to conclude that geothermal energy is the most environmentally friendly heating/cooling system. Not bad for a “Government entity.”

After all, we all know how smart THOSE “Gov’t types” are…

Don’t get me started… I mean it… 🙂

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that in comparison with typical (conventional) residential systems, geothermal energy is more efficient and cost-effective, and you can read about that, here;


Geothermal energy is available no matter where you are. Don’t believe me? Check out this map!

usmap1And we’ve all heard about the massive pile of federal, state, local, and even utility credits, tax credits, and grants available to citizens, to adopt the use of green technologies in their homes, right?

Geothermal cost savings can be increased by geothermal energy incentives.

Of course “your mileage may vary.” If you live in a bankrupt state, that IOU won’t go too far. That’s what you get for electing a bodybuilder to be your governor… 🙂

Like anything else, where you are has a lot to do with what things cost. And energy related products are no exception. So… energy and cost savings of geothermal heat pumps will vary by region and type of conventional system they’re compared with.

But, if there is one thing I want to hammer home, it’s this:

The energy cost of geothermal vs. conventional HVAC systems will always be lower — and the geothermal system will always be greener.

Over the next several days, we’re going to look at Geothermal Energy Systems, and discover why we need them.

And at the end you’ll understand why I’m using it, and exactly how I’ll do it…

And that means that you’ll be able to do it too!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin


2 Responses to “How “cool” is COOL?”

  1. Container Homes July 24, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    Good post I will be following your progress with interest.

  2. Pete Murphy July 24, 2009 at 6:21 am #

    Interesting post! Congratulations on your out-of-the-box, “in-the-box” approach!

    Speaking of the trade deficit, our enormous trade deficit is rightly of growing concern to Americans. Since leading the global drive toward trade liberalization by signing the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, America has been transformed from the wealthiest nation on earth – its preeminent industrial power – into a skid row bum, literally begging the rest of the world for cash to keep us afloat. It’s a disgusting spectacle. Our cumulative trade deficit since 1976, financed by a sell-off of American assets, exceeds $9.4 trillion. What will happen when those assets are depleted? Today’s recession is the answer.

    Why? The American work force is the most productive on earth. Our product quality, though it may have fallen short at one time, is now on a par with the Japanese. Our workers have labored tirelessly to improve our competitiveness. Yet our deficit continues to grow. Our median wages and net worth have declined for decades. Our debt has soared.

    Clearly, there is something amiss with “free trade.” The concept of free trade is rooted in Ricardo’s principle of comparative advantage. In 1817 Ricardo hypothesized that every nation benefits when it trades what it makes best for products made best by other nations. On the surface, it seems to make sense. But is it possible that this theory is flawed in some way? Is there something that Ricardo didn’t consider?

    At this point, I should introduce myself. I am author of a book titled “Five Short Blasts: A New Economic Theory Exposes The Fatal Flaw in Globalization and Its Consequences for America.” My theory is that, as population density rises beyond some optimum level, per capita consumption begins to decline. This occurs because, as people are forced to crowd together and conserve space, it becomes ever more impractical to own many products. Falling per capita consumption, in the face of rising productivity (per capita output, which always rises), inevitably yields rising unemployment and poverty.

    This theory has huge ramifications for U.S. policy toward population management (especially immigration policy) and trade. The implications for population policy may be obvious, but why trade? It’s because these effects of an excessive population density – rising unemployment and poverty – are actually imported when we attempt to engage in free trade in manufactured goods with a nation that is much more densely populated. Our economies combine. The work of manufacturing is spread evenly across the combined labor force. But, while the more densely populated nation gets free access to a healthy market, all we get in return is access to a market emaciated by over-crowding and low per capita consumption. The result is an automatic, irreversible trade deficit and loss of jobs, tantamount to economic suicide.

    One need look no further than the U.S.’s trade data for proof of this effect. Using 2006 data, an in-depth analysis reveals that, of our top twenty per capita trade deficits in manufactured goods (the trade deficit divided by the population of the country in question), eighteen are with nations much more densely populated than our own. Even more revealing, if the nations of the world are divided equally around the median population density, the U.S. had a trade surplus in manufactured goods of $17 billion with the half of nations below the median population density. With the half above the median, we had a $480 billion deficit!

    Our trade deficit with China is getting all of the attention these days. But, when expressed in per capita terms, our deficit with China in manufactured goods is rather unremarkable – nineteenth on the list. Our per capita deficit with other nations such as Japan, Germany, Mexico, Korea and others (all much more densely populated than the U.S.) is worse. My point is not that our deficit with China isn’t a problem, but rather that it’s exactly what we should have expected when we suddenly applied a trade policy that was a proven failure around the world to a country with one fifth of the world’s population.

    Ricardo’s principle of comparative advantage is overly simplistic and flawed because it does not take into consideration this population density effect and what happens when two nations grossly disparate in population density attempt to trade freely in manufactured goods. While free trade in natural resources and free trade in manufactured goods between nations of roughly equal population density is indeed beneficial, just as Ricardo predicts, it’s a sure-fire loser when attempting to trade freely in manufactured goods with a nation with an excessive population density.

    If you‘re interested in learning more about this important new economic theory, then I invite you to visit either of my web sites at or where you can read the preface, join in the blog discussion and, of course, buy the book if you like. (It’s also available at

    Please forgive me for the somewhat spammish nature of the previous paragraph, but I don’t know how else to inject this new theory into the debate about trade without drawing attention to the book that explains the theory.

    Pete Murphy
    Author, “Five Short Blasts”

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