Passive Solar Design – Is Your Home Ready For It?

Passive Solar Design - Is Your Home Ready For It?
by Tim

Passive solar design is one of the simplest ways to improve your home’s value and save electricity at the same time.

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.

Your home’s passive solar potential is determined by where and how it is situated and by the types of windows and materials used. Although most buildings can be optimized to receive the ideal amount of sunshine, it is easier if they are on flat land or a sun-facing slope. If your home is surrounded by many trees, make sure they are deciduous so that they shade your home in summer, but their bare branches let sunlight through in winter. Also, try avoid nearby buildings that create too much shade.

When constructing a new home, make sure it is built so that the length of the house faces the sun, allowing the maximum amount of sunlight. Also note how the size, shape and placement of windows will determine the amount of natural heat and light in your home.

There are three ways the sun can heat your home:

1) Direct gain – direct heat from the sun shining on a surface.

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

3) Isolated – the hot air that circulates through 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

It is pointless building a home that lets in a lot of sunlight during the day is that sunlight cannot be absorbed and used to keep your home warm at night. So inside, you should use materials and fabrics that tend to absorb sunlight and radiate that natural heat for a long time. And in winter, to maximize the use of the sunlight and warmth, try to close cold, dark rooms off from the rest the house, and locate to sunnier, warmer rooms during the day.

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.

For current buildings, the simplest passive solar design solution is to replace your windows with modern ones, that use various methods to store up 50% more heat. Although they are 10% to 15% more expensive, they pay for themselves in the long-term from all the power saved to heat your home.

Also known as Low-emissivity (Low-E) windows, double-glazed windows are great at letting through sunlight, but retaining that natural heat inside. Some of them have multiple panes of glass with a gap of argon or krypton gas to store the heat. Also to reduce heat loss, make sure your windows and doors are well-sealed.

What your windows are produced from can make a big difference too. While metal framed windows generally conduct heat out the house, wood, vinyl and fiberglass frames insulate the heat better. Always ensure any modern windows bought have labels issued by Energy Star or the National Fenestration Rating Council. These labels provide statistics on how effective and efficient the windows are at retaining heat, which helps you purchase the right windows for your conditions 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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