• Terell Brown, MBA

Get Ahead of The Curve with Passive Solar Energy Design

Updated: Jun 30, 2019



Do you ever feel like your heating and cooling bills continue to increase? Are you ready to make an investment that will continue to save you money? Passive solar design can save you a tremendous amount of money on energy costs. In fact, the future of energy is renewable and clean energy. In the first quarter of 2019, US solar installations both increased 10% from first quarter 2018 and reached the largest first quarter installations ever recorded. Total US PV capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years.


What is Passive Solar Design?


So, what exactly is passive solar design? Solar design refers to the use of the sun’s energy for heating and cooling of living spaces through exposure. There are two types of solar design: passive and active. The main difference is passive solar design systems are straightforward and do not require use of mechanical and electrical devices like pumps, fans or electrical controls to move solar energy. Active design refers to energy systems that involves mechanical and/or electrical components. Passive solar design is incorporated during the design phase of development and does not add additional costs to the cost of construction. Active solar design can be incorporated at any time, however to maximize the efficiency of an active solar energy system, it is best to first implement passive solar design.


You see, passive solar design takes into account many elements such as the building’s orientation on the lot. A passive solar home design must include elements that work together. These elements include properly oriented windows. Windows that collect solar energy need to be facing 30 degrees of true south and cannot be shaded by buildings or trees in the surrounding area during certain hours of the day. Window positioning on the eastern and western facing sides should also be carefully considered.


Another element is thermal mass. Thermal mass absorbs and stores heat from the sun during the day in the cold season and releases that heat throughout the night. During the hot season thermal mass materials absorb and store heat from warm air inside of the home. Once again, objects cannot block sunlight on thermal mass materials.


Passive solar design also requires control strategies like properly sized roof overhangs for southern facing windows. Here in the United States, the tilt of Earth on its axis and Earth’s elliptical orbit results in the sun being higher in the sky during summer months and lower in the sky during winter months. Properly sized roof overhangs provide shade to south facing windows during the summer months, and allow warm sunlight in during the winter.


Without these elements (there are more) your active solar energy system won’t function as it should. Some of these elements can be identified by the average homeowner, but to best incorporate all of the multiple facets of passive solar design and get the most energy efficient home for your site, you must consult with a team of professionals.


The temperature in your home can dramatically fluctuate due to solar heat gain and heat loss.

Passive solar design seeks to balance solar heat gain and heat loss based on the conditions at each specific site.


The Importance of Site Selection for Passive Solar Design Systems


When it comes to passive solar design, every site is not equal. Due to the variation in characteristics from one site to another, some sites fare far better than others.


It’s important to know that site selection is vital for passive solar energy homes. Passive solar homes need to be in a position where they have an unobstructed view of the sun. The assistance of a professional is recommended because designing a passive solar home is an opportunity that should not go to waste. Energy efficiency can be greatly diminished when the wrong site is selected. Further, problems that aren’t there currently could always arise. For instance, trees that look small grow into large trees. If the trees were on your own property maybe you could just cut them down, however neighboring property owners may not want to cut their trees. Or, a building could potentially be built which could block the home’s access to the sun. This is why it’s important to consider all potential uses of the land around your site. At Garrison For Veterans, we have an expert understanding of the zoning and land regulations that can protect landowners’ solar access.


With our help, finding the right site can be simple. Once you do find it, you’ll be glad you put in the work in the beginning because passive solar energy design has amazing benefits.


Benefits of Passive Solar Design Systems


Perhaps the most obvious benefit of passive solar design is it prevents harmful emissions from damaging the environment. It is a clean, renewable process that uses design to harness energy to heat and cool your home. When we use electricity, we generate emissions into the environment that are harmful. Some of these emissions include carbon dioxide, which is believed to be the number one contributor to global warming. Carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other emissions are byproducts of energy use that not only harm the environment but our health too.


There’s no doubt that solar energy is a solid home investment. Some home investments require you to put more money in than you gain back, but not only will you continuously save money on energy bills, you can also increase your property value. A study sponsored by the Department of Energy and conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California involved reviewing sales data from 2002 to 2013 for nearly 23,000 homes in eight states. The study found that buyers paid a median premium of $15,000 for a home with an average-sized solar panel system. Solar panels married to a home with proper passive solar design is a great investment where you can actually receive a return.


Typically, your heating and energy bills fluctuate. One month they are low cost and no big deal, and the next they are sky high. When you have a passive solar designed home working with an active solar energy system, you take control of your energy costs. When you pay the system in full, your heating, cooling, and energy costs can net zero, costing you $0 per month…. Yes, you are reading that right, $0 a month!


The Results Are In


As you can see, you can’t go wrong with passive solar design.


Think about all the money you spend on heating and cooling costs. If you were to add those monthly payments up in a year, what would it be? What about two years? Five years? It is shocking to see how much money we spend on energy costs. If you see yourself living in a home longer than a few years, this is a great opportunity for you.


Are you interested in building your dream home? Do you want to reduce your energy costs for good?


Speak with Garrison for Veterans today to determine how passive solar design can be incorporated into your next build. We can help you pick the right site location to ensure your investment’s efficiency is maximized.

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