Zero-Energy Homes Built With Passive Design

Passive design includes positioning your house for greatest passive solar gains: having excellent insulation, and choosing energy efficient appliances.

  • "Home Sweet Zero Energy Home: What it takes to develop great homes that won’t cost anything to heat, cool or light up, without going crazy" by Barry Rehfeld identifies all the pieces of the zero-energy puzzle and how they fall into place.
    Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers
  • This passive design house outside of Urbana, Illinois, collects passive solar energy from the morning sun.
    Photo Courtesy Gregory Stanton

Focusing on real costs and savings, Home Sweet Zero-Energy Home by Barry Rehfeld (New Society Publishers, 2011) is a practical guidebook that clearly identifies all the pieces of zero energy homes and explains how homeowners and buyers can take smaller steps towards reducing the energy use of existing buildings. In this excerpt from Chapter 2, find out how to use passive design to site your house properly for maximum passive solar gain.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Home Sweet Zero Energy Home.

The two-story home on the south side of a straight flat stretch on a road outside of Urbana, Illinois, appears to be as much a part of its rural environment as the ground surrounding it. Large stone bases support beams holding up a porch roof at the front and eastern and western sides of the house. The siding is a combination of earth tones. A three-foot-high strip of brown gives way to the brownish-gray color of the roof. Its sharp square shape and low gabled roof gives the home a solid imposing look of midwestern permanence.

Yet while it seems, like many homes in its area, to have been planted on its foundation and been quietly blending into its surroundings for a long time, that image is deceiving. This Urbana home was completed in 2008, and its shell or envelope is not just standing there, but is very busy reducing the amount of energy needed to run the home.

This work is done just by the way the home is designed and built, a concept known as passive design. The idea is that by incorporating a few relatively simple features into the house it will make the most — and, when wanted, the least — of the sun’s energy. Passive design succeeds best when it allows as much of the sun’s heat in as possible through its windows during cold months and keeps it out in hot months. Good passive design also allows sunlight in through the windows, while keeping the wind from penetrating the seams around them or anywhere else in the house’s structure all year round.

Letting the sun through the home’s windows in the winter means a homeowner can bask in its warmth and natural light while paying smaller utility bills. Keeping it from shining through the windows in the summer means the cost of running air-conditioning systems will be less.

4/1/2015 12:05:39 PM

Great stuff, is the same commercially viable in other parts of the world like third world countries.

9/20/2013 3:28:48 PM

as Michael answered I am shocked that a student can earn $5030 in a few weeks on the internet. .......> www.jobs60.Com

9/20/2013 9:52:29 AM

Excellent to see more articles on solar, net zero homes. We built an earth bermed passive solar house and love it. Easier to do than most think and the savings come year after year. Cheers, Tracey Allen Author of Building a Passive Solar House: My Experience Shared



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters