Can a Straw Bale House Survive Without a Heat Source?

Written by Andrew Morrison


Drawing of an upside down fire stack

I have a farm in Trinidad, Colorado (although I live in Denver) and on it is an old house that I want to tear down. I would like to build a house that is so energy efficient that I can leave it with no heat in the winter and have no problems with freezing, etc. In other words, I want to create a cave-like environment where the temperature stays roughly the same as outdoors in any weather. Can a straw bale house survive without a heat source? I have double pane, low e-glass windows in my farm house now and would transfer them to the new house. Please let me know if this is possible with the straw bale construction.
Thank you.


The biggest aspect of this working is the design of the house. You will need to incorporate enough passive solar design to create a natural heat source for the home. Without any heat, the house will eventually equal the temperature outside, even if that is 0 degrees. If the house has passive solar design, it can generate its own heat by using the sun to warm interior floors and other heat sinks. That heat is then slowly released into the home and the bales insulate to such a high efficiency that they can contain that heat through the night. So, can a straw bale house survive without a heat source? With some detailed planning and execution it may be possible. Good luck!


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4 Responses

  1. In regards to:Can a bale House Survive Without a Heat Source?

    What if there is a week or so’s worth of bad weather/storm with no sunshine. How would this work, even if the southern exposure of the house was well planned?

    Are there solar panels that would work adequately in this type of weather to incorporate into a hydronic heat source?

    Are you familiar with or have any experience with a timber frame/straw bale construction where the timber frame is visible inside the house? I’m guessing a very wide sill so the bales can be placed on the outside of the timberframe.


    Pete Zablotny
    Edmonton AB

  2. Pete,
    Sorry for the huge delay. For some reason I never saw your comment until now.

    Bad weather is always a possibility and you are right that heat would be lost during that time. I would never actually build a house without any heat source personally. Even a wood stove is a wonderful idea in my opinion. I personally love a wood fire in the winter in my wood cook stove, plus it doubles as a cooking surface which is especially great when our power goes out (no gas where I live so the stove is electric).

    I don’t know of any solar panels that work “well” in bad weather.

    You are right about the timber frame concept. I have other posts on the blog about that if you want more details.

  3. If I don’t get to plaster before winter hits will my straw walls be ok? Do I need to cover the exterior till spring?

  4. Hi Jerry. If you cannot get the plaster on the structure before the freezing temperatures arrive then you must cover the bales with some type of protection. House wrap is a common approach. Make sure that it is as tight to the walls as you can get it so that there is no risk of it being ripped off by the wind. You can plaster as long as there is no chance of the temperature dipping down below freezing within 72 hours of plaster application.

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