In today’s market, consumers are increasingly aware of their own environmental impact. Those that are not are still certainly aware of the savings an energy efficient home enables. However, traditional energy efficient techniques, such as solar panels and personal wind turbines, have not gained widespread support. This could be because people view both solar panels and wind turbines as items that are difficult to install and expensive to maintain. However, if someone is building a new home, or planning a remodel, they should definitely consider passive solar energy.
The idea behind passive solar energy is that a house’s walls, floor, and windows can absorb, store, and circulate the heat from sunlight in the winter. During the summer, the same technology allows the house to deny heat. A completely passive solar energy system would not have any electronics, such as fans or thermostats, to assist it, but many houses use them as backup or auxiliary systems. This impressive effect utilizes five design elements that consumers can incorporate into almost any house.
The first, and most important, is having large south-facing windows that will let in the sunlight. The sunlight then falls on some dark material that absorbs the heat. The material can be either the floor or a wall. The heat transfers from the wall or floor to the “thermal mass”, which is either stone or brick. The thermal mass stores the heat, like bricks by a fireplace, and distributes warmth throughout the house. Most systems use one of the three natural distribution methods (convection, conduction, or radiation) or fans and ducts. Finally, a “control,” such as awnings and low-emissivity blinds, helps to keep the house cool in the summer.
Together these measures create a home that has a self-regulating climate system, which can save people money and help save the planet, as well.