The Mad Housers research and develop new types of shelter, and new ways to support the existing hut sites. This work attempts to emphasize the "simple, small, reliable, and cheap" approach that is the Mad Houser trademark.
Cogeneration is the production of two or more forms of energy from one fuel source. The Mad Housers have developed a cogen "plant" based upon a four-cylinder car engine which generates 12 volt DC power and hot water for hut sites.
The car engine turns a generator, which generates electric power stored in heavy-equipment batteries in the back of the car itself. The heat from the engine, in turn, is used to heat an insulated tank of water to over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. One hour of running the engine will generate enough power for 2 to 3 days, and enough hot water for 24 hours.
Conservation is not merely a buzzword to the Mad Housers. Fuel not consumed in keeping huts warm pays back immediate dividends in extended winter supplies, less time and work spent collecting wood, less pollution from smoke, and prolonged stove life.
To that end, we are constantly searching for ways to incorporate energy efficiency into the designs of the huts:
- Recent successful experiments in adding sheet Styrofoam insulation to roofs of newer huts has prompted us to add insulation to the walls and the floors to increase efficiency.
- "Sun porches", attached greenhouses made at very little cost from 2x4s, plywood and clear plastic sheeting, have been tested and help to add solar heat to already-built huts.
The standard hut can shelter one person; but many of our clients are married or are involved in a long-term relationship. Under these conditions, a hut can become cramped quarters.
In response, the Mad Housers have designed and prototyped a larger hut which nearly doubles the amount of available floorspace for only a fractionally larger amount of material. This new hut has uses a higher roof pitch and a new loft design to add considerable headroom to the loft area. This design is being considered both for couples and for the older homeless, who have a difficult time utilizing the loft in standard huts.