Practical Passive Solar Examples


| 4/11/2014 11:21:00 AM


The MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR is on its way to my lovely little mountain town this very weekend. (If you're going to be there, you can catch my workshop on Net-Zero home design on Sunday afternoon!) In preparation, I was tasked by our marketing department to look through some of the various green homes we’ve built in the area and pull together the highlights of their green features. As usual, I wanted to list all kind of nerdy exciting details of heat transfer coefficients and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings…and was told, with my marketing department’s usual patience, to cut a bit for simplicity and clarity. In doing that, one thing really stood out me. All these homes had one salient feature in common, one aspect to their design that really augmented their claim to green fame.

That feature is passive solar design.

Blogs and articles abound about passive solar design principles. If you’re a regular MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. My aim today then, is not to explain it, but to celebrate it. It's darn neat to see how many of our houses have put passive solar design into practice! Especially here, in a southeastern climate, where cooling is just as important a consideration as heating, and high humidity can be a concern.

A Quiet Mountain Retreat

Passive solar home in the mountains of North Carolina

This home, located here in Asheville in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, still has to contend with some hot summer days. Being built on a densely wooded lot helps greatly with the cooling side of things, as does the metal shingle roof, which is an Energy Star cool roofs product whose low emissivity helps keep the sun’s heat that it’s pelted with all day, out of the attic.



Yet the house is shaded by deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in winter. Following classic passive solar design principles, we made sure that the open living, kitchen, and dining area faced south, and we put an appropriate amount of window glass in that living room, three Marvin Integrity wood-ultrex windows at 6 foot wide and 4 feet tall, with a 2 foot deep overhang to shade them in summer but keep them un-shaded in winter. We used Marvin's "Low-E 180" glass coating that lets in 57 percent of the sun’s heat, as opposed to only 20 percent to 30 percent as is common with standard Low-E coatings. We made sure all that incoming solar heat was put to good use with an acid-stained concrete floor to act as a thermal battery. I remember standing in front of those windows on a 20 degree day in winter, after the house had been insulating but before the heating system had been installed, and feeling so comfortable.

tallenpei
4/12/2014 1:23:55 PM

Love it - more and more passive solar houses every year. We love ours. Tracey Allen Prince Edward Island Canada Author of Building a Passive Solar House: My Experience Shared




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