Passive Solar System Design

Passive Solar Energy Design is a great way to start your home or business on the path to a more environmentally friendly standard.  The experts at Solar Panels Melbourne, have compiled a list of passive ways to involve solar energy in your home. Now if you are looking to move to an active solar energy system, such as solar water heating or solar panels then you would have to call a local solar installer.

The most ubiquitous solar system design is easily the solar panel. Whether it’s a farm full of square panels so blue they’re almost black, or a couple of flat boxes on a roof, they’re easily recognized for what they are. Same with wind power – driving past a bunch of windmills is usually a good clue that it’s a wind farm. You can also usually safely guess that you’re looking at a source of water power if there’s a really large lake and a dam nearby. But there are also other forms of solar power – sun ovens, water heating, and so on. Today, we’re going to take a look at a specific method of home solar energy: passive solar home design.

Elements of Passive Solar Energy Design:

  • Sunspaces
  • Correct Building Alignment
  • Air Pathways
  • Plant Shading

Passive solar energy is where you take the energy that the sun generates as it comes to you, and using it without any sort of modification or conversion. A solar panel is called active solar power, because it requires that you actively work on taking that power and converting it into something that can be used as electricity. Passive solar, though, is somewhat less talked about, and there are a number of ways that you can integrate it into your home and everyday living.

Sunspaces, for example, are a way of gathering energy (heat, specifically) and moving it to a space where there wouldn’t normally be enough surface area to gather that heat. Mostly, sunspaces are made of glass or plexiglass so that the space will collect all the heat and then hold it. Once this heat is in that house, the construction will funnel that heat into the rest of the house. A lot of the times, you can “disguise” a sunspace as a greenhouse or a patio, and then you have not only a cheap way to get extra heat, but a reading room or a plant house as well.

There are other ways to get the same impact of a sunspace, and one of them is called a Trombe wall. It works basically the same way, by having a row of windows in front of a dark wall that holds heat, which then releases that heat into the rest of the house. A good reason to use the Trombe wall instead of a full sunspace is because the wall takes less room, although it gathers somewhat less heat.

 Correct building alignment is something that all houses with solar power need to factor in – if the roof or window isn’t facing the correct direction to catch the full impact of the sun’s rays, well, then you’re not getting all the energy you could be getting out of it! You also need to take in the change of the sun’s path over the course of the seasons. Because a winter sun is lower than a summer sun, you can cut off much of the summer’s overbearing heat with an extended roof while still being able to take in all of that sun in the winter months. When you use something like this, keeping your house warm in the winter just got a tiny bit easier.

Air pathways may not immediately seem connected to solar power, but when you’ve got an entire greenhouse full of sun-warmed air, and your house is cold… well, something needs to happen! The low-energy way of getting that heat circulated through the rest of the building is one that needs to be in mind when the place is built or remodeled. We learn the path as children: warm air rises, cool air falls. By keeping this act first and foremost in your head, it’s possible to design rooms that will naturally force the air to follow this pathway and thus move that air constantly throughout the home. Many places will also add in windows or grates to the connecting walls, so that if you want to keep a room unheated, you can just close those vents.

One final thing to keep in mind is plant shading. Someone will probably be saying “but plants aren’t solar energy!” … except, of course, that plants grow using the sun. How is that connected to your house, though? Great question. The answer is to use the plants, generally ivy or other vines, to shade your house or garden to keep it cool. Have you ever walked into a dark, quiet forest in the middle of summer and noticed how much cooler it is that the rest of the area? Because the trees keep the ground shaded, the heat from the sun is much, much less than in, say, a house. Creating a trellis and growing some vines up it may seem silly as a way to save energy, but really, when you think of how much money you’ll save when you don’t have to cool down that area of the house as much, it’s a pretty nice trade-off. Each growing zone has its own best type of climber plant, so you’ll have to be sure to check on that before just planting a trellis full of morning glory. For more ideas on solar passive design, click here


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