A solar age
of energy independence is finally here. We no longer have to depend on
Exxon or BP or Chevron for our energy requirements. We can harvest
energy directly from the sun. Our planets oil reserves
are rapidly disappearing as the demand for energy continues to
rise. Fracking for natural gas won't solve
the energy crisis, but it may diminish the supply of clean water. More earth friendly alternatives are needed. An energy independent solar homes like the one on the
left is a practical long term investment.
There is an old saying that is still very true. "A house is only
as good as good as its foundation." Everything rests on the
foundation... Even slab foundations rest on a footing that should be
below the frost line.| Foundation walls are more expensive than slabs
that rest on footings but they facilitate plumbing and electrical
connections. They also provide the thermal mass used to store heat and
moderate temperatures. This is accomplished by insulating the outside of
the foundation with solid insulation.
Anchor bolts cemented into the top of the foundation wall secure the
foundation sill. This provides a platform for the headers and floor
joists. This floor is 30 feet wide and about 50 feet long. The 16
foot long floor joists rests on a laminated beam 50 feet long. The ends
of the beam rests on concrete pilasters and the central portion of the
beam rests on three posts. This is a fairly standard method for
framing a house. A solar type house should be framed in the
Sheathing the floor joists is commonly done with one layer of 3/4"
plywood, but there is a better way. 3/4" plywood is almost twice as
expensive as 1/2" CDX plywood so for almost the same price the floor can
be sheathed with two layers of 1/2" plywood. A squeaking floor occurs
with a single layer of plywood
at the junction between floor and joist. To eliminate this problem a
second layer of plywood should overlap the first layer. Once this is
done the floor is ready for a carpet, tile or any other kind of finish
The bearing walls should rest on the sheathing over the basement beam.
Avoid halls if possible. What appears to be a hallway in
this design is actually an area that will later be made into closets.
A radiant floor heating system would later be attached under the floor
between the floor joists. For now we will only focus framing and be
conscious of the orientation of the house with respect to the sun before
The joists of the second floor are secured in the same manner as the joists
on the first floor. They are sixteen feet long and sixteen inches on
center and they overlap the bearing wall beam by a foot. Notice the
headers and additional framing supports for the staircase. Be sure to
allow sufficient headroom clearance for the stairs. After this is done
the joists may be sheathed. Some contractors do all the framing first
before sheathing the floors, BUT a sheathed floor is easier and safer to
Here we have a nice clean second floor platform to work on. This
facilitates the installation of the second floor roof and walls.
After the second floor is sheathed the solar home design parts company with conventional
ridge roofs or truss roofs.
Notice the south facing roof is also one
of the walls of the second floor. It has a surface area of 800 sq. ft.
and it's ideally pitched to maximize the solar radiation harvest
in the form of heat or electricity
One person would have a difficult time building and supporting a roof
like this, but it could easily be raised and supported with a team of
The North Wall is easy to frame and install so let's install it next. Be
sure to frame out the windows before raising this North Wall.
South Wall/Roof has no windows, but it will need temporary supports to
be held in place while the East and West side walls are filled in.
The East and West walls may now be put in place. Don't forget to frame
out the windows first.
Central supports on either side of the stairs
should be installed next. As a matter of fact this may be a good time to
frame out the walls on either side of the stair opening. The ridge
joining the South roof to the North Shed roof will support a lot of
weight so a central support is necessary. 2x12 North roof joists may
be needed for this shallow pitched span.
The North side of the house may have too many windows to be energy
efficient during the winter months, but remember we want our house to be
practical and esthetically pleasing all year long. The Solar
Greenhouse on the south side of the house provides extra heat as well as a place for plants.
An extreme 3 story solar home may look something like this and have a
large south facing roof BUT all houses with south facing roofs may not
There are many alternatives to fossil fuel heating
systems. It's just a matter of providing sufficient surface area for
collecting heat and as well as an adequate storage container for long
A hexagonal house like this may also be used to harvest the sun's energy
with it's 250 sq. ft. roof. There are many derivations of this
hexagonal concept waiting to be discovered. Maybe you will discover them
and help make the solar alternative the convention rather the exception
to the rule.
This 2' x 8' solar collector is framed with a steel stud slot and insulated
with solid insulation.
There are no copper flow tubes or metalic absorber plates to transfer
Polyester felt is used to disperse trickle down water and transfer this
heat from sunlight.
A gutter at the foot of the collector chanels water into storage tanks
that preheat domestic hot water. For more information on the MTD
Collector cliclk on the MTD collector.