What is Passive Solar? HINT: It May Not Mean What You Think

What is Passive Solar? HINT: It May Not Mean What You Think

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Even if your home isn’t a new construction built with passive solar design, you can still take advantage of strategies to utilize the solar energy coming into your home. First, you need to understand what passive solar is and what it entails. Second, you can discover different methods to boost your home’s passive solar ability to prevent HVAC overload during the year. If you are planning new construction, consult with your builder. How you angle your home on your lot, for example, can make a big difference, as well as building material choices, such as brick versus siding or exterior paint and roofing colors.

What is Passive Solar?

Passive solar refers to a building’s design for collecting, storing and distributing solar energy. The design includes the windows, walls and floor. Solar energy is used to heat a home during the winter and rejects the heat from solar energy during the summer. A home with passive solar collects heat from the sun shining through windows facing the south and stores it as heat, or thermal mass.

A home designed for passive solar can reduce heating and cooling loads by utilizing energy-efficient strategies and lowering HVAC costs. The basic elements of a passive solar home include:

  • Large south-facing windows
  • Roof overhang
  • Thermal mass flooring
  • Trombe wall
  • Thermostatic Fan
  • Distribution mechanisms
  • Control strategies

Improve Your Home’s Passive Solar Ability

Not every home has been designed for passive solar, especially because it’s a relatively new term for residential homes. If you don’t have the extra money to install new windows, thermal flooring, a trombe wall, or thermostatic fan, don’t worry! There are still a few ways you can benefit from the passive solar potential of your home. Take these steps to boost your solar benefits:

  • Seal air leaks: Any heating or cooling your HVAC system supplies can be escaping through air leaks in your ductwork. The heat coming through the windows you already have can be used to reduce the amount of heat your furnace needs to supply to your home if leaks are sealed properly.
  • Duct cleaning: When ducts aren’t cleaned on a regular basis, they become clogged and will cause an HVAC overload. Overworked equipment will experience more breakdowns and malfunctions. Reduce HVAC overload by keeping ducts clear of dirt, dust and other debris.
  • Curtains and blinds: During the warmer months, reduce air conditioning costs by closing blinds and curtains on windows facing the sun. Your air conditioning unit will run less often if the indoor temperature doesn’t spike during the hottest time of the day. Open curtains and blinds during colder weather to take advantage of direct sunlight exposure to gain heat. Close curtains and blinds once the sun has gone down to “trap” the warmth inside.
  • Preventative maintenance: Investing in a preventative maintenance plan keeps your air conditioning and heating system operating smoothly throughout the year. You won’t have to worry about an HVAC overload, malfunction or failure when your equipment is cleaned and inspected on a regular basis.
  • Landscaping: You can plant trees, shrubs, and other plant life 3 feet from your outdoor unit to provide shade and keep your outdoor unit from overheating. Additionally, planting deciduous trees on the south side of your home can provide shade during the summer, while letting sun shine through in the winter. To shield your home from wind and colder temperatures, choose conifers or evergreens for the north and west sides of your home. Consult with a landscaper or your local nursery for trees native to your area and your goal.

Boost your air conditioning efficiency by utilizing your home’s passive solar capabilities. Schedule preventative maintenance with an Estes Services professional. We specialize in heating and cooling maintenance, repair and installation for any residential home. Call us today!