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Passive Solar: How To Heat Your Home For Less

January 31, 2022

Active + Passive Solar Energy

While there are various sustainable design options available to homeowners, this post will exclusively explore the benefits of passive solar design.

  1. Active Solar
    Active solar systems utilize mechanical or electrical equipment to collect, store, and distribute solar energy, most commonly through the use of solar panels that generate electricity or distribute heat, whereas passive solar design relies on the strategic placement of building materials.

  2. Passive Solar
    Passive solar focuses on the capture of solar energy without any extra equipment. This type of solar energy is used to passively heat and cool a home without the use of outside energy. By designing your home with passive solar in mind, you can ensure that you get the most out of your home’s location.

Benefits of Passive Solar

Passive solar design offers a multitude of benefits beyond just the natural light it provides. By intentionally designing your layout, you can enjoy:

• Reduced energy costs: Passive solar homes use the sun's energy to naturally heat and cool the space, reducing the need for artificial heating and cooling systems and lowering your energy bills.

• Abundant natural light: Not only does natural light provide a pleasant atmosphere, it can also improve your health and mood.

• Consistent temperatures: Passive solar homes are designed to maintain consistent temperatures throughout the day and year, reducing fluctuations and improving comfort.

• Eco-friendly design: By reducing your energy consumption, you'll be doing your part to help the environment.

By saving money on heating bills, you can allocate those funds to other important expenses like your children's education or saving up for a new car. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but taking advantage of cost-saving opportunities is always a wise decision.

How Passive Solar Works: Heating + Cooling

Passive solar design can bring many benefits to your home, but to fully leverage its advantages, it's essential to consider two critical dates: December 21st and June 21st. These dates represent the winter and summer solstices, respectively, and indicate when the sun is at its highest and lowest points in North America. However, it's worth noting that if you live in another part of the world, these dates may vary, so it's crucial to determine the corresponding dates for your location.

For a more comprehensive understanding of passive solar design, consider watching this informative video, which delves into these concepts in greater depth. 

  • The Importance of Window Placement

    Proper window placement is critical when it comes to passive solar design. South-facing windows allow the most sunlight and heat to enter your home, making them a crucial element of your design. During the summer, the sun is directly overhead, and south-facing windows are optimized to let in the least amount of sunlight. In contrast, during the winter months, these windows are designed to capture the most sunlight to warm your home.

    While windows on the east and west sides of your home can also be useful for passive solar design, they are less effective than south-facing windows. These windows receive more light during the morning and evening hours when the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, respectively, but not much sunlight during other parts of the day. Therefore, it's best to prioritize south-facing windows when planning for passive solar in your home.
Modern bedroom with active solar design
A massive green roof system
  • Orienting Your Home Correctly

    The orientation of your home's roof to the sun is a crucial factor that can significantly affect passive heating and cooling. If your main roofline is facing south, your home will absorb a considerable amount of heat during the winter months, helping to keep your home warm.

    However, during the summer months, this heat absorption can lead to overheating. To prevent this, consider planting trees around your home that will grow and provide shade to your roof. The shading effect will help keep your home cooler during the summer months, reducing the need for air conditioning. It's worth noting that the trees should lose their leaves in the fall to allow sufficient sunlight to enter your home during the winter months. By carefully considering your roof's exposure to the sun and strategically planting trees, you can optimize your home's passive solar design.
  • Use a Thermal Mass

    Thermal mass is an essential element of passive solar design. Materials such as rock, stone, and tile have the capacity to absorb heat during the winter months and transfer it into your home, helping to keep your home warm. Conversely, in the summer months, these materials can absorb the heat from inside your home and transfer it outside, which helps keep your home cooler.

    Thermal mass is especially beneficial in homes built in rugged environments or those constructed into hills and other landscapes. By incorporating thermal mass into your home's design, you can maximize the benefits of passive solar heating and cooling.
  • Distributing Solar Heat

    To maximize the benefits of passive solar heating, it's not enough to have just one room that's warm and toasty. Your entire home should be designed to take advantage of passive heating and cooling. This means developing a plan to distribute heat evenly throughout your home.

    One approach is to use fans to circulate warm air throughout your home. Adding more windows on the east and west sides of your home can also help bring in additional heat. Additionally, you may want to consider implementing a passive solar heating system to capture and distribute solar heat. With proper design and planning, you can achieve a comfortable and consistent temperature throughout your home while minimizing energy consumption. 

Choosing a Passive Heating System

In some cases, a passive solar heating system may be the most effective way to provide your family with consistent and comfortable temperatures throughout your home. One of the most popular types of passive solar heating systems is a water-based system.

In this system, water is heated in one location and then flows throughout the house to distribute the heat. This is similar to a hot water baseboard heating system, except the heat source is the sun, making it entirely passive and requiring no additional energy beyond what is provided by the sun. By utilizing a water-based passive solar heating system, you can enjoy a warm and comfortable home while minimizing your energy consumption and reducing your carbon footprint.

Sustainable Design For Your Home

Looking to build a custom home in Minnesota with an emphasis on sustainable design then reach out to our team at Sustainable 9. We specialize in building efficient and eco-friendly homes that are tailored to your needs and lifestyle, providing you with modern, comfortable living spaces.

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