Passive Solar Design House

February 16, 2011

Your home’s windows, walls, and floors can be designed to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and  reject solar heat in the summer. This is called passive solar design or climatic design. Unlike active solar heating systems, passive solar design doesn’t involve the use of mechanical and electrical devices, such as pumps, fans, or electrical controls to move the solar heat.

Passive solar homes range from those heated almost entirely by the sun to those with south-facing windows that provide some fraction of the heating load. The difference between a passive solar home and a conventional home is design. The key is designing a passive solar home to best take advantage of your local climate.

You can apply passive solar design techniques most easily when designing a new home. However, existing buildings can be adapted or “retrofitted” to passively collect and store solar heat.

The Passive House concept represents today’s highest energy standard with the promise of slashing the heating energy consumption of buildings by an amazing 90%

A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply.

Direct gain is the simplest passive solar home design technique. Sunlight enters the house through the aperture (collector)—usually south-facing windows with a glazing material made of transparent or translucent glass. The sunlight then strikes masonry floors and/or walls, which absorb and store the solar heat. The surfaces of these masonry floors and walls are typically a dark colour because dark colours usually absorb more heat than light colors. At night, as the room cools, the heat stored in the thermal mass convects and radiates into the room.

An indirect-gain passive solar home has its thermal storage between the south-facing windows and the living spaces.

The simplest and most reliable sunspace design is to install vertical windows with no overhead glazing. Sunspaces may experience high heat gain and high heat loss through their abundance of glazing. The temperature variations caused by the heat losses and gains can be moderated by thermal mass and low-emissivity windows

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