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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Passive Solar Design - Making Full Use Of The Sun's Free Energy

By T McDonald
Passive solar design is one of the simplest ways to improve your home's value and save electricity at the same time.

Passive solar design is a clever way of using the sun's natural heat and light energy in your home. An example is the use of different building designs and materials to effectively cool and heat your home. What's so appealing about passive solar design is that it requires little upkeep, it is easy to setup, it improves the value of your home, and you can benefit from tax breaks.

When working out the passive solar potential of your home, you need to consider how it was built and what materials is was built from. The ideal position for your home would be either be on flat land or on a sun-facing slope. Also, in suburban areas, any trees nearby should be deciduous to shade your home in summer, and let through the sunlight in winter.

If you plan to build a new home, make sure it is designed so that the majority of it faces the sun. Also, the size, type and shape of your windows will affect how much sunlight and natural heat your home gets.

So how exactly does your home warm up from the sun? In 3 different ways:

1) Direct gain - direct heat from the sun shining on a surface.

2) Indirect - this is heat given off from objects heated by sunlight.

3) Isolated - the hot air that circulates through your home.

The get the most out the the above 3 heat sources, you should try install large windows on the sun-facing side of your home, as this will allow the most sunlight in.

But there is no point designing your home to let in a lot of natural sunlight and warmth if that energy cannot be stored for later use. Ideally you would want to use materials that absorb sunlight and radiate that heat for a long time. In winter, to get the most out of the natural heat in your home, you could close off cold, unused rooms from the rest of the house, and sit in the sunnier, warmer rooms during the day.

During summer, the right length roof overhangs or eaves can be used to control the amount sunlight and heat in your home. The eaves should be wide enough shade out the intense midday sun, but let the let low-angle sunlight through during dusk and dawn to light up and warm the home. Again, the right trees and shrubs can be planted to regulate the house's seasonal exposure to the sun.

To make your current home more energy efficient, an easy way would to get the latest windows that can retain up to 50% more heat. Than can cost up to 15% more than traditional windows, but they will save you a lot of energy and money in the long-run.

Also known as Low-emissivity (Low-E) windows, double-glazed windows are great at letting through sunlight, but retaining that natural heat inside. Some of them have multiple panes of glass with a gap of argon or krypton gas to store the heat. Also to reduce heat loss, make sure your windows and doors are well-sealed.

What your windows are made from can make a big difference too. While metal framed windows generally conduct heat out the house, wood, vinyl and fiberglass frames insulate the heat better. Always ensure any modern windows bought have labels issued by Energy Star or the National Fenestration Rating Council. These labels provide statistics on how effective and efficient the windows are at retaining heat, which helps you purchase the right windows for your conditions and budget.

The whole idea behind passive solar design is to use the sun's natural heat in such a way that it reduces your energy consumption and expenses. So before going out and getting the latest and greatest passive solar design and products, always weigh up the cost involved with how much you will save in energy bills in the long-term.
About the Author:
While using the sun's heat is one way of reducing your energy costs, another is to build your own solar/wind power system. Learn how you can do this for under $200 by getting your copy the Earth4Energy Guide for FREE and start saving up to 80% on your energy bills. Or, read the full Earth4Energy Review first.

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