Tips for owning a passive solar home

A passive solar house is one designed to take advantage of the sun's rays to stay warm in winter and cool in summer. These tips will help you learn how to modify your home to a low-energy lifestyle so you can save money in the long run.

Tips for owning a passive solar home

1. Building to maximize the sun's warmth

Allowing sunlight into the house in winter and keeping it out in summer can greatly reduce reliance on conventional energy sources.  The passive use of solar energy is extremely cost efficient. Up to 30 percent of the average cost of heating a house can be saved simply by ensuring that the main living areas face north. Builders eager to save money need only establish the best orientation for their building before starting work.

2. Modifying existing houses

Existing houses can also be modified to be more energy efficient. Such a house will usually incorporate solar water heating and, in remote areas, perhaps a solar-based electricity system.

  • The layout of the house should have the living areas facing north, and bedrooms and service areas, such as bathrooms and toilets, facing south.
  • Avoid windows in the west walls and reduce the window size on the east and south sides.
  • Houses that have a large thermal mass — heat-­absorbing stone, brick or concrete walls and floors — are best placed to minimize the effects of a cold ­winter.
  • The walls and floors store the heat gained during the day and release it when the outside temperature drops.
  • Houses built on concrete slabs and with large windows to let the winter sun in are very thermally efficient.

3. The importance of good insulation

Effective insulation is one of the most important components of any energy-efficient dwelling. Whatever the climate, insulation keeps living areas at a manageable comfort level and minimizes the use of conventional energy for heating or cooling.

  • Bulk insulation for ceilings and walls provides the main barrier; draft seals and double glazing of windows take care of other major heat-leakage points.
  • Doors that seal properly isolate areas of a house, limiting air flow and heat loss or gain. Likewise, closed stairwells prevent the loss of heat to upstairs areas.
  • Keep in mind that a switch to solar goes hand-in-hand with a low-energy approach to living.
  • A hard-headed, economical attitude to power use should mean that your consumption is far less than a typical house connected to the electricity grid.

Switching to a low-energy lifestyle will save you money down the line and help the environment at the same time.

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