Passive Solar Home Design - Is It For You?
Posted July 13, 2014

A passive solar home is a home that gets at least part of its heating, cooling, and lighting energy from the sun. This type of home collects heat as the sun shines through south-facing windows and retains it in materials that store heat. Passive solar designs take advantage of a home’s site, climate, and material to minimize energy use.

If you’re thinking about adding solar features to your new or existing home, a positive to remember is that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing heating and cooling bills.

If you are adding solar features to a new home you are building, choose building professionals experienced in energy-efficient house design and construction and work with them to optimize your home’s energy efficiency. When selecting the site to build a passive solar home, a portion of the south side of the house must have an unobstructed view of the sun.

If you are remodeling an existing home and are considering adding solar features, the first step is to have a home energy audit to prioritize the most cost-effective energy efficient improvements.

A well-designed passive solar home first reduces heating and cooling loads through energy-efficient strategies and then meets those reduced in whole or part with solar energy.

Below are some of the basic elements that a passive solar home most have in order to be successful:
Properly oriented windows – These or other devices face within 30 degrees of true south and shouldn’t be shaded during the heating season by other buildings or trees from 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day.
Distribution mechanisms which include conduction, convection and radiation. 

Thermal mass – In a passive solar home, thermal mass is commonly concrete, brick, stone and tile. This absorbs heat from sunlight during the heating season and absorbs heat from warm air in the home during the cooling season.

Control Strategies – These can include properly sized overhangs that would provide shade to vertical south windows during the summer months and electronic sensing devices such as the differential thermostat that would signal a fan to turn on. Additional control strategies would include operable vents and dampers that allow or restrict heat flow, low-emissivity blinds, operative insulation shutters and awnings.

Posted By: Michelle Keaton-Barrow
July 13, 2014 08:55 PM

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