DIY Green Energy For Homes

How to Utilize Solar Power in Your Home

Before heaters, heat pumps, and air conditioning units were invented, homes were designed to take advantage of the power of the sun.

Builders knew what types of materials held the heat and cold well, and used this knowledge to design houses.

This is what is known as passive solar design.

Passive solar design harnesses all of its energy from the most abundant resource of all - the sun.

You do not need any solar equipment or materials - all you need is for you home to be designed in a way to take advantage of the sun's heat.

Heating and cooling our homes has a huge impact on the environment and generates high levels of carbon emissions.

Little do people realize that by utilizing passive solar, most homes can cut energy usage by 30 per cent if not more. If your home is designed properly for passive solar you will find that you can keep your home warm/cool enough without the need for heaters.

A well designed passive solar home can also cut your heating and cooling bills by 50-90 per cent. Utilizing passive solar design means that you are reducing wear and tear on heating and cooling equipment, and saving money on your power bill as well. 

If you are thinking about passive solar design, an engineer can provide you with expert advice on how to best utilize passive solar techniques whether you are thinking about building a green home or if you have an existing home and looking for ways to green up your home.

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If you have an existing home and want to adapt passive solar techniques, there are a number of options you can consider. These include: solar panels, solar water heating, energy efficient windows, radiant heating and rainwater catchment.

To make the most of passive solar design there are some things that you need to consider.

Firstly, proper placement of windows: windows act as solar collectors in passive solar design.

But you need to be careful that you do not have too many south facing windows if you live in an area with a hot climate, also in a cooler climate, north facing windows provide reflected light but no heat. These things need to be taken into consideration.

On the flip side, in cooler climates it is vital to have south facing windows to warm your home up during the day. Thick curtains are important to keep the heat in, in the evenings.

Secondly, design your home to make the most use of the sun.

That is, if your home is designed to be only one room wide you will find sunlight will disperse throughout the width of your whole house. Talk to a designer or engineer who will tell you the best way for your home to be positioned to make use of the sun. 

Thirdly, utilize thermal mass. Ever noticed how if you leave a brick in the sun all day it will release the heat after the temperature drops? Well you want to apply this principle to passive solar design.

The way you do this is to erect a thick wall (at least 12 inches thick made of concrete or brick) in front of a large window.

The sun comes in through the window and heats up the wall all day and once the sun sets, heat is released keeping your home warm.

Adding the three above elements to a new or existing home means that you will drastically reduce your heating and cooling bills, while saving on greenhouse gas emissions as well.

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You can get a great guide to building your own solar thermal hot water system that will have you saving money (and the environment) right away:

Talk to a green architect about passive solar design and turn your dreams into a reality.