Monday, June 8, 2009

Passive Solar Design - Using The Sun's Energy For Free

By Tim McDonald

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.

When working out the passive solar potential of your home, you need to consider how it was built and what materials is was built from. The ideal position for your home would be either be on flat land or on a sun-facing slope. Also, in suburban areas, any trees nearby should be deciduous to shade your home in summer, and let through the sunlight in winter.

If you plan to build a new home, make sure it is designed so that the majority of it faces the sun. Also, the size, type and shape of your windows will affect how much sunlight and natural heat your home gets.

There are three ways the sun can heat your home:

1) Direct - the heat from the direct sunshine on an object.

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

3) Isolated - caused from the air movement in your home.

The get the most out the the above 3 heat sources, you should try install large windows on the sun-facing side of your home, as this will allow the most sunlight in.

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.

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.

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.

The type of windows frames you use can also make a huge difference. Metal frames should be avoided since they draw heat out of your home in winter, but heat up your home in summer. It is better to use wooden, vinyl or fiberglass frames to insulate your home better. When you do buy modern windows make sure they are labeled by the National Fenestration Rating Council or by Energy Star. That way you will be able to buy the right windows for your needs and budget.

The whole idea behind passive solar design is to use the sun's natural heat in such a way that it reduces your energy consumption and expenses. So before going out and getting the latest and greatest passive solar design and products, always weigh up the cost involved with how much you will save in energy bills in the long-term.

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1 comment:

Dana said...

Great innovative idea! it will save energy and money too.