Building a home with a passive solar design is much different than the name might suggest. Passive solar is more passive than one might conclude. A home that uses a passive solar design aims to maintain thermal comfort without the use of mechanical or photovoltaic means. Simply, passive solar design, is a spin on heating a cooling, using what we know about the earth as a guide.
A home that uses passive solar design is a part of the environment, instead of merely existing in it. Passive solar homes are built after considering a few key elements. To build a home that heats and cools itself according to the season's and conditions, one must acknowledge these aspects individually.
Passive solar building is a hot topic, and it's cool too. Imagine yourself in a home that will warm up in winter by opening the curtains. Imagine this same home will cool itself in the summer with the same action. That is a concept anyone can get excited about.
So why is it called passive solar building when it doesn't use solar power?
Passive solar homes are built after evaluating three factors of the sun. Direct solar gain, indirect solar gain, and isolated solar gain, are all factors in how a home feels to those who live in it. Knowing how these factors will affect the home either negatively or positively will benefit the homeowner.
A contractor who builds a home for the passive solar home understands things about the earth that we may be taking for granted. This contractor knows:
The sun doesn't always shine.
The sun is at different points in the sky at different times in a year.
A home-site must get an adequate amount of solar gain to meet the families needs.
Passive solar homes are built with much more than heating and cooling in mind. In many cases passive solar lighting and passive solar water heating are incorporated into the home design. Using all aspects of passive solar design in building a home can keep the inhabitants warm in the winter, cool in the summer, provide free lighting and free hot water. The passive solar home is an energy saver as well as an energy maximizer. Homes built with these techniques use the earth and the sun to its fullest potential while saving the occupants money.
It is a common misconception that a passive solar home is more expensive than a traditionally built home. Misconception being the keyword in that sentence. Passive solar homes don't cost more, they operate smarter. Windows are used to let in the sun and heat the home during the winter. These same windows let out heat during the summer and draw in cool night air. Walls and floors are designed to heat up and cool down, during the seasons, giving more benefit to the owners of the home.
Passive solar homes are a step toward zero energy living. When a homeowner builds with a passive solar design, active solar systems can easily be incorporated. Passive solar design is a viable way to lower monthly bills and increase a families comfort within the home.