Living with 'Sufficiency'
Dr. Béla Munkácsy, professor at Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem (ELTE) in Budapest, Hungary was a speaker at one of the plenary sessions at the 10th ECEN Assembly in Balatonszárszó held between 27 of September 2014 and 01 of October 2014. During his speech about the possibilities of renewable energy, he took his listeners from a very good theoretical basis to his personal example of implementation. He gave the example of his own experience of how he and his family live in a house that produces 100% of the energy they use.
“The idea at the beginning was not so much the environmental consideration, but the need to be more independent of the state's energy supply. As we went on building our own house and planning it more and more came the steps that made our home not just better for us, but more Eco-friendly," he said. Dr. Munkácsy tells how finding the place where the house would be built, was already a challenging process in itself, as the terrain had to be suitable for a North-South orientation of the house, which at the beginning of the process was actually prohibited by the local building regulations. After getting past this phase of the negotiations with the local relevant officials, the family were able to build their home out of adobe bricks, an old Hungarian-specific building material, and after having levelled their energy consumption needs at somewhere about 1100 kWh/year, they built the solar panels accordingly, to produce about 1300-1400 kWh/year.
To the question “What is living with sufficiency?”, Mr. Munkácsy answered, “We have everything that we need and we are trying to not have anything we don't need. We have our own laptops and notebooks that we use for work and entertainment, but we don't have a TV. We have a functional washing machine, refrigerator and electric oven, but don't own an iron and a flush-toilet.”
Mr. Munkácsy also tells that in addition to the environmental profits from his families' lifestyle, they profit also as a family, having more time to spend together; and because some appliances need more physical work to add to the machine's work, he and his family gets to have a physical workout' and thus, are getting fitter!
Listeners asked: “What other appliances you have in your home that may seem peculiar for today's consumer and how do they work?”
“We have what here in Hungary we call 'Mass Stove'. i.e. a stove, or a furnace for the home which burns biomass made from wood. It produces massive amounts of heat in a short period of time. This was used traditionally in Northern European households for many centuries until the central heating system was introduced. Now, the Mass Stove has a built-in heat tank, outside the stove, that is able to store the amount of heat produced by the fire, thus heating the water for the house, and, by releasing the heat during the next 24-48 hours (depending on the season), is also able to warm living spaces up to 17-18 degrees Celsius.
Apart from that, they added a separately bought shower hose to their industrial washing machine, so that the water it uses for the washing cycle is put in manually: in this way they can make sure that the machine receives already warm water, so it does not need to be heated up by the appliance. So the water is preheated in the winter by the mass stove and in the summer by the solar panels and this reduces the energy consumption of the washing machine...
This example set by Dr. Béla Munkácsy is an inspiration, and we share this story in order to let it impact many of us!
written by: Julia Zaharia