Boosting Solar Potential

Those who have taken on the initial solar panel installation cost to make their homes more efficient know just how big this type of investment can be. While the return is definitely worth it, it is more than just throwing a few solar panels on the roof and calling it good. Complementing the investment using passive solar heating strategies will enhance the return even further.

What is Passive Solar Heating?

Let's face it. There's no point in investing thousands to have a home fitted for solar panels if it's energy-inefficient. Windows, walls and doors that let out as much energy as there is coming in defeats the whole purpose of trying to lower energy bills. Whether building a new residence or enhancing an existing structure, it is necessary to take note of features and materials that will help meet the goal of energy efficiency.

In its true definition, passive solar heating means using a structure's site, natural weather patterns and building materials in a way that ensures it is if fully functional while using the least amount of energy possible. For new structures, this can mean building a home with south-facing windows to capture light and heat. For structures that already exist, it can mean remodeling a home to include state-of-the-art insulation to keep it efficiently cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In either case, the goal is to attain the highest level of energy efficiency possible.

What Kind of Passive Strategies Work Best?

For maximum efficiency a home should have as much exposure as possible to sunlight for the advantage of trapping the sun's energy. It is up to the materials of the structure do the rest. Most of the time, when homeowners have solar panels installed they are dealing with a structure that is already in existence. This can make passive solar heating a little trickier to accomplish if the home isn't facing the optimal direction to the sun or was constructed using older building codes.

Nonetheless, if solar panels have been applied to the roof then it is likely the home already gets a good amount of sunlight. The ultimate goal is to apply strategies that will make an older home an energy trap.This can include:


  •  updating old doors and windows
  •  replacing venting that is next to windows
  •  installing ceiling fans
  •  replacing insulation
  •  using concrete, brick, stone or tile for siding and floors
  •  using dark colors inside and out to absorb light and heat
  •  utilizing awnings, blinds, shutters and roof overhangs
  •  adding a sunroom

Although this seems fairly simple, creating a strategy for an older home will require the equilibrium of a number of details and elements. The use of materials and strategies greatly relies on geographic location and natural weather patterns. While some tactics can be implemented rather inexpensively, a truly functional plan requires the help of a professional experienced in passive solar design. This can be advantageous in the long run but is a unique goal that can be pricey depending on a home's condition.  

Passive Cooling

In addition to passive heating, there are strategies for passive cooling as well. This often includes strategically placed landscaping and using lighter materials in specific areas of the house. When the two strategies work together, a home stays filled with natural light during the day and continues to be comfortably warm even as the air cools during the evening hours. Greenhouse gas emissions fall far below average compared to a traditional home as does maintenance costs.

Homes that complement the use of solar panels with passive solar heating strategies are not only likely to greatly reduce their energy bill but increase in value. They often have an inner and outer ambience that is natural, comforting and attractive. One of the main functions of passive solar design is to promote comfort to the dwelling's residents.

The decision to go with a passive solar heating strategy in an older home should probably be looked into before taking on the initial solar panel installation cost. However, even if solar panels are already in place, it is never too late for homeowners to perform a home an energy audit to line out what improvements can be made right away.  

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