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This vertical glazing two story sun room is located in Keeseville, NY where temperatures often plummet below -20F during the month of January. The one-inch thermo pane windows face Southwest. Perhaps if they faced due south the heat gain during the winter months would be a bit better, but due south is not always an option. Some people prefer the simplicity of vertical glazing. Heat losses are less than  tilted glazing losses.    During the cold, short, days of winter between the hours of 12 noon and 5PM the sun room becomes cozy enough to provide a nice playroom for the children. This simple passive solar addition brings a little light and warmth into an otherwise bleak environment.


Lutts, Tennessee
For the past 20 years, we have been living in a solar collector-otherwise known as a direct gain passive solar home. It is naturally well lit, thanks to many large, evenly spaced windows on the south wall. These appropriately shaded windows allow direct sunlight to reach the back of the building in winter, but allow no direct sunlight inside in summer. The light which does enter strikes the textured, brown concrete floor, slip formed stone walls, and large stone fireplace, gently warming these surfaces which absorb and store heat, moderating temperature fluctuations. Having insulation on the exterior of the building allows these thermal masses to remain at or near room temperature, absorbing heat during sunny days and radiating warmth at night. This makes interior temperatures very stable, naturally staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Because the floor and walls are doing double duty as thermal flywheels, temperatures also remain very even throughout the house. doug_kalmer



Passive solar home design has evolved a great deal since I built my first solar home in the early 80’s. Good contemporary passive solar design incorporates several important features. To achieve a comfortable quality living space passive solar design needs to have the proper amount of South facing window area, appropriate overhangs for seasonal control and adequate thermal mass for heat storage.

Durango Fine Homes, LLC offers simple to build, easy living and extremely effective passive solar home blueprints.



Here is a nice little solar greenhouse in Saranac NY about 40 miles south of the Canadian border. The five 4X8 one-inch thermo pane panels face south. They are tilted at an angle of 60 degrees to optimize heat collection during the coldest months of the year. The stone floor of this greenhouse is about four feet below the outside knee-wall. The back-wall was built out of  cobble stones mortared into position to provide a heat sink. Rising hot air at the apex of the solar greenhouse pushes top flaps open to heat the interior living space of the house. Lower flaps open into the greenhouse to allow cold air return.. Shortly after the sun sets the flaps close to prevent living space heat from being lost into the cooling night-time greenhouse. Besides providing additional heat to the house the greenhouse provides an excellent plant nursery.
For more information about solar greenhouses go to:
 Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect  


Here is a low budget solar greenhouse entry-way addition in Skyler Falls NY about 50 miles south of the Canadian border. The 60 degree tilted glazing faces due south. The Glazing measures 16 feet at the base and is about 12 feet long. This picture was taken On January 15, 1980. The outside temperature was -20F. Notice that the snow has already melted on the upper level sun room. By 2PM I recorded a temperature of 160F inside this sunroom loft with the outside temperature still well below 0. The inverted funnel shape of a solar greenhouse has a way of  concentrating rising columns of hot air inside the greenhouse. A fan located near the apex is used to force this concentrated hot air into the living space.





This is a conceptual model of a cold climate  hexagonal house joined to a square house. The side of the square house would measure 16 feet as would the side of the hexagonal attachment. The diameter of the hexagonal section would be 32 feet. The total living space of  a house like this would be about 1500 square feet not counting the 250 sq foot workshop, a 250 square foot loft solar greenhouse, a 150 square foot gym and a1000 cubic foot heat storage vault. The solar collectors would cover a surface area of 250 square feet. Heat not supplied by the sun would be supplied by a wood burning stove.
To learn more about the possibilities of hexagonal housing go to: 


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Ray Caver's solar round house  is a unique approach to renewable energy construction that makes good use of thermal mass. This house is designed to be comfortable, long lasting and is resistant to  earthquakes, fires, tornados, hurricanes and... Who knows what's on the horizon?. Concrete is actually a very  affordable building material, especially considering it's strength, thermal mass properties and  longevity. All or most of it’s electrical and heating needs will be from the sun or wood heat. By starting from the ground up, the heating system, electrical, refrigeration and water needs  were all designed for minimal energy consumption and loss.  The output of individual photovoltaic panels has quadrupled in the last decade and are all available online to the public at discount prices. Energy saving light bulbs, high efficiency heating systems, smart water systems and low consumption refrigeration will cut down on the use of fossil fuels, reduce pollution and give you energy independence.  This round design uses energy conservation primarily since weather goes around it rather than pushing  constantly against it.. Only the round design can support the highly insulated, all concrete roof with the large over hang. These overhangs are  designed to let the winter sun in through the winter, and shade the sun from mid morning till late afternoon. The concrete roof ensures safety from all elements, natural or man made.  The walls are constructed using ICF's and are 10" of steel reinforced concrete and the floors are 4.5" steel reinforced concrete with radiant tubing to distribute solar heated and wood heated water. 



Gary Reysa’s home is in the foothills of southwest Montana uses the solar heat collected from his homemade 240 sq ft array of collectors to heat his house in the dead of winter. The heated water is stored 
inside a 500 gallon home made insulated tank inside just behind the collectors inside his shed.

When his house requires heat a pump circulates this stored hot water through his radiant floor heating system via two 100 foot long, insulated, underground pipes. GET THE FULL STORY BY CLICKING ON THE ILLUSTRATION.



The Williams Farm, solar-hot-water system is powered with a photovoltaic system and does not depend on grid power. If there's a power outage the PV system provides the power needed to collect hot water and also supply our house with heat during the winter months. We have some nasty winters here in Georgetown Maine but we also have some clear sunny days so we're ready to harvest the sun's energy throughout the year.

Overheating is never a concern with our array of 60 evacuated tube collectors because we use a 328 gallon tank to store the sun's heat. We never run out of hot water in the summer and we minimize our heating and hot water expenses even in the winter.

For more details about this system click on our house. just remember if solar heating and solar power applications work here in Georgetown Main just imagine how they could work in your neighborhood.







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