Saving Power With Passive Solar Design

Saving Power With Passive Solar Design
by Tim McDonald

If you have wanted to start living more off the grid and saving power, have you ever considered passive solar design?

Passive solar design is a smart way of using the natural heat and light from the sun in your home. This is usually done by using various building materials and concepts to efficiently heat and cool your home. The advantage of using passive solar design is that it is rather easy to use, it needs minimal maintenance, its reduces your energy consumption, while increasing your home’s market value.

How your home was built and what is what built from play a big part in determining its passive solar potential. Ideally it should be built either on a sun-facing slope or on flat land. And if you live in a residential area, any trees surrounding your home should be deciduous to let through sunlight in winter, but shade your home in summer.

For any new building, it is best to build it so that the length faces the sun. Another factor determining your home’s potential for natural light and heat is the shape, type and size of windows you use.

There are three ways the sun can heat your home:

1) Direct – this the heat generated from the sun shining directly on an object.

2) Indirect gain – radiated heat from objects heated by the sun.

3) Isolated gain – determined by the airflow in your home.

To maximize the sun’s natural heat from all three sources, it is best to use large windows on the sun-facing side of your home.

Do It Yourself Project

All that sunlight and heat in your home is useless, if it cannot be stored and used when the sun is set. The solution is to use heat-absorbent flooring and walls that carry on radiating heat long into the night. A simple way to reduce power cost in winter is to locate to rooms in your house that get the most sunshine at certain times of day. Also, shady rooms should be cut-off (their doors closed) from the rest of the house to retain heat better.

During summer, the right length roof overhangs or eaves can be used to control the amount sunlight and heat in your home. The eaves should be wide enough shade out the intense midday sun, but let the let low-angle sunlight through during dusk and dawn to light up and warm the home. Again, the right trees and shrubs can be planted to regulate the house’s seasonal exposure to the sun.

To make your current home more energy efficient, an easy way would to get the latest windows that can retain up to 50% more heat. Than can cost up to 15% more than traditional windows, but they will save you a lot of energy and money in the long-run.

Double-glazed or Low-emissivity (Low-E) windows let solar heat in, but keep in the indoor radiant heat. Another way to reduce heat loss is to ensure tight seals around all windows or by using multiple panes that have gaps between them filled with argon or krypton gas.

What additionally has an effect is the type of window frames you have. Wooden, fiberglass and vinyl window frames are better insulators as opposed to metal frames that conduct the heat too well. When it comes to buying your windows, make sure they are officially labeled either by Energy Start or the National Fenestration Rating Council (for the U.S.). These two bodies give ratings on how energy efficient and effective the windows are, making it easier for you to buy the right windows for your climate and budget.

To conclude, passive solar design is way of using the sun’s natural light and heat in your home. The whole point behind it is to help reduce your energy needs and resultant costs. So before you go out and implement passive solar design at home, always weigh up the investment required against the potential energy savings.

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