Living Green in Passive Solar Design
Over the past decade, solar power has become a significant player within both residential and commercial construction businesses providing a viable option for alternative energies. Solar passive design has been used for thousands of years where the most obvious instances were, and still are, in the Mediterranean.
Homes utilized this approach with consideration to home placement, ceramic and stone building materials, size and shape of windows and even building depth. Interestingly, these parameters, which were put into effect thousands of years ago, serve as the basis for which current models use in the present.
Placement is Key
When evaluating the many aspects of a passive solar design model, most experts such as these home builders consider the placement of the home in relation to the path of the sun to be of the utmost importance. This maximizes the use of solar power by positioning the home within a path relative to that of the sun.
Through home placement, solar cells can be more effective and obtain energy for a longer period throughout the day. The home’s placement also takes into account the use of natural surroundings as well as external home accessories to retain heat during winter months and keep cool during hot summer months. External home accessories may include retractable awnings, large soffits, and maneuverable shades set on a timer to change with the passing of the sun. As a general rule, the length of the home is spread in an east to west fashion placing larger windows facing a southerly direction and placing smaller windows to the north.
The Rule for Cool<
Venting is considered to be the second most important aspect in creating a passive solar home. For this reason, it is very important to understand the flow of air through one’s home. By understanding air flow, one can determine the best place to open windows and exits to allow fresh air to flow in and hot, stagnant air to flow out. There are many types of building materials to consider using as well. For instance, some brick and stone have been specifically manufactured to absorb and retain heat during the daylight hours and release that heat at night when the air is cooler in general.
Thirty years ago, solar cell technology was ruled out as efficient due to cost and their relatively little ability to retain the energy they could create. However, three decades later solar cells have become far less expensive, and batteries have evolved to allow for significant energy retention stored throughout the day. Placing solar cells on top of one’s roof has become the most common practice although if one has a large expanse of property there could be other places besides just the roof. When solar cells are placed on the roof, house placement again plays a key role in the efficiency of this appliance. By utilizing the east to west placement, one can find a solar cell package that will utilize the full path of the sun by moving with the sun or using a number of panels in a convex pattern along the ridge of the rooftop.
Alternative energy is proving to be a major player of the present and in the future. Solar energy and the solar passive design model have become one of the most reliable ways to utilize a renewable energy source. Advancements in solar panel design and structure will continue to push the passive solar design to the top of the list in both commercial and residential construction. By speaking with a professional versed in the solar passive model, one should be able to find many ways to utilize this efficient and cost saving measure to fit their particular energy needs.
Andrew is a student at the University of Melbourne for architectural engineering. He has a passion for all things sustainable. His goal in the future is to build homes that are clean and self sufficient thus reducing the structures carbon footprint on the world.