Homeowners who take advantage of passive solar home design can boost energy savings by lowering the heating and cooling load of their homes. Passive solar design is most easily accomplished when building or remodeling a home, requiring a more manageable investment than investing in active solar equipment, like photovoltaic panels.
There are five basic concepts to using passive solar:
- Solar collectors – Often called apertures or window expanses, solar collectors are used to access radiation from the sun, which is then used to heat the home. A large window should be positioned on the south-facing side of the home, unobstructed by shade from trees or buildings. This will allow your home to access heat in the winter season during peak sunlight hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Absorbers – Inside the home, an absorber is positioned to collect heat from the sun. It is typically a hard surface, made from a dark material—to absorb maximum heat—and can be either a water container, masonry wall or floor.
- Thermal masses – Also designed to function like an absorber, a thermal mass differs in that it is not an exposed surface area; instead, the thermal mass rests under or behind another surface material, like a wall or floor.
- Solar distribution – Three natural processes — conduction, radiation and convection — are utilized in passive solar design to distribute, or circulate through the home, the solar heat that is collected or absorbed through other passive solar factors, like absorbers and thermal masses.
- Controls – While passive solar maximizes heat gain during winter, it is necessary to limit heat gain during summer. You can position roof overhangs or awnings to increase shading, install a sensing thermostat that will run a fan to limit heat gain, and install dampers or vents that alternatively allow or inhibit the movement of heat. Window blinds are also an effective passive solar tool that will reduce heat gain in the summer.
If you’re interested in passive solar design, contact your local solar experts at Acosta Heating, Cooling & Electrical today! We’ve been serving the greater Charlotte area as a local, family-owned company since 1972.