4 Facts You Should Know About Building A Passive Solar Home

If you want to maximize solar gain in your home to reduce your energy spending, consider building a passive solar home. Passive solar homes have many features that are designed to capture or block sun, depending on the time of the year. If you think a passive home is right for you, check out these four important facts.

You Have to Start From Scratch

You could add a few passive solar features to your current home, and you will see some energy savings. However, to really benefit from passive solar energy, you need to start from scratch because so many features of the house need to take advantage of the sun. For starters, you need to choose the perfect location. The right location will have a lot of unobscured sun that can hit the south-side of the house.

Speaking of the south side of the house, you want to build your home so the most commonly used rooms are along the long south wall. The west and east walls should be shorter, and you'll want to build "buffer" rooms there. Buffer rooms, such as the garage, are rooms that you don't use often, and they help keep hot air and cold air (depending on the time of the year) away from the most popular rooms in the house.

You Want Lots of Windows

Another feature of passive solar homes is lots of windows on the south side of the house. Basically, the windows become solar collectors that allow lots of heat into the home, but they also allow you to ventilate the home if needed. Don't build too many windows on the other sides of the house because it can actually make the house colder in the winter.

One popular option is to install a sunroom, which is basically just a room full of windows. A sunroom is designed to let in as much sunlight as possible, which boosts the natural heat that enters your home, even on winter days.  

Thermal Mass Is Also Important

Passive solar houses are typically built with materials that can absorb heat well. Materials like stone, brick and concrete absorb heat when exposed to the sun. Depending on the time of year, they either pull heat into your home from outside or push it outside.

One way to really boost the effectiveness of these materials is to build a Trombe wall. A Trombe wall starts with a solid wall made of stone, brick, concrete, etc. On the outside of the wall, a pane of glass is placed. The glass is designed to trap the sun's heat, so more heat can be absorbed by the wall and pushed into the house. The Trombe wall also has an awning, which prevents heat gain from the sun during the summer.

Don't Forget to Add Some Shade

Even if you don't build a Trombe wall, you still need lots of awnings. Awnings over your south-facing windows won't block the low winter sun, but they will block the high summer sun, which can prevent unnecessary heat gain during the summer.

Another way to add some shade is to plant some trees on the west and east sides of your home. Don't be afraid to plant some taller ones that may even add shade to the roof. Be careful not to plant ones that will cast too much shade on the south side of the house.

A passive solar home is a great way to reduce your energy bills each month, but you have to build it from the ground up. Every aspect of the house works together to create an extremely energy-efficient home. For more information about passive solar homes, contact a builder like those atCustom Home Construction Abbey Master Builder.