An ideal solar home has:
All of these features are an important part of a solar home design but these provisions alone will be insufficient if the available sunlight is inadequate Also this design may not be appropriate in all neighborhoods. The efficiency of collectors and panels shaded by trees and buildings could be another problem. Remember sunlight is a diffuse intermittent resource so a large surface area is needed to collect the heat and a large volume area is needed to store heat when sunlight is not available. Energy independent housing will at last set us free from fossil fuel corporations, reverses the process of land and air pollution and also promote social harmony. A good time to plan a solar home is before it's built. After a house is built the modifications are limited to what is known as retrofit construction.
After a house is built there is only so much that can be done to take advantage of the sun's energy. This VERTICAL GLAZED TWO STORY SUNROOM 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 3PM the sun room becomes cozy enough to provide a nice playroom for the children, but heat losses from the sunroom are excessive after sunset. This simple passive solar addition brings a little light and warmth into an otherwise bleak environment. Unfortunately only a small fraction of the home heating needs are met with this vertical glazing system. If a fan were used to pump some of the solar heat into the house during the day the situation could be improved, but even with a fan to improve heat collection this would not be considered a solar home.
Passive solar homes like this one are popular in the Southwest where there is a plentiful supply of sunlight. Hot air is allowed to flow freely through the house during the day where the heat is stored inside massive adobe walls that moderate temperature swings.. The heated air is prevented from escaping through the greenhouse glazing with simple flaps that close when heat is no longer available. Thermal shades can be used on the upper thermo pane windows to retain heat that might otherwise be lost.
Passive heating systems like this have the advantage of not depending on mechanical devices, but in cold climates heat must be stored for longer periods of time inside well insulated chambers. This is why active heat transfer systems have become more popular in cold climates.
Locally available materials like
adobe bricks from the desert floor and Vegas from a pine forest are used in
the construction of passive solar heated homes in the Southwest. I know this
for a fact because I built a few when I lived in New Mexico.
use conventional electricity to run fans
and pumps that transport heat. Some people argue that active systems are
counterproductive because they waste fossil fuel to collect solar energy,
however others argue that a penny spent to harvest a dollars worth of heat is
money well spent.
Money has always been an important concern for folks who invest in solar
applications, however money is not the only concern. Appearance is also
important. Does form follow function or does function follow form? From my
conversations and observations I have concluded they are both important. Good
housing designs emerge where form and function meet. Futuristic housing should not only look good to the eye but I
believe it should be beneficial to the spirit and the environment. Hexagonal
housing, I believe, captures the spirit of the 21st Century.
Examine some of these designs and tell me what you think:
HEX-A-FRAME 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, the 250 square foot loft solar greenhouse, the 150 square foot gym and the 1000 cubic foot heat storage vault. The solar collectors would cover a surface area of 250 square feet. A wood-burning stove would supply heat not supplied by the sun.
Hex-3 is made from three hexagonal units topped with interlocking cube
octahedron roofs. Two 250 sq. ft. collector arrays are mounted on the outside
hexagonal units. The interior unit could be a second floor greenhouse or a
photovoltaic array. The Hex3 measures 80 feet by 40 feet with a height of 33
feet. The living is easy inside this house with a living space surface area of
6,500 sq. ft. Notice that all the roof surfaces could not possibly all face
due south. Still 80 % or more of the sunís energy would be available to an
arrangement like this.
My father often reminded me that my main problem in life was my need to
start on the top.
Dad said, ďIf you start on the top there will only be one way for you to go,
son.Ē Thatís OK Iíll deal with the foundation later, Dad, but first
Iíd like to focus on a steep roof design that will facilitate flush mounting
16 solar collectors capable of harvesting enough heat to get us through a New
England winter. Conservation and
storage of heat make solar thermal systems possible, but where is all this
heat coming from.
maximize heat gain the solar collection area should be perpendicular to the
angle of the sun. Since the earth wobbles on its orbit with a tilt angle of
23.5 degrees it is impossible to have the roof tilted at the best angle every
day of the year unless the collectors are moveable. You might think that 41
degrees would be an ideal roof angle for Long Island since half the yearís
perpendicular solar radiation would be less than 41 degrees and the other half
would be more than
and this would be a good first
guess, but taking into consideration that more heat is
needed in winter than summer a pitch angle closer to 500 would be
minimum of R19 for outside walls and R30 in the roof is recommended. Be sure
to provide some ventilation above the insulation between the 2X12 roof rafters
and remember hot air tends to collect in the high places of the house. Donít
skimp on insulation especially in these high areas of high heat losses. The
money you spend on insulation will more than pay for itself in a short time.
This energy independent house is designed to make good use of construction materials and maximize living space. Notice the third floor could easily be used as an attic. The floor under the roof should be insulated like you would any attic floor in case you decide not to heat this area at times of the year when it becomes impractical. As a matter of fact you may decide not to insulate the roof ceiling. If you neglect this chore the third floor becomes an official attic and you avoid paying living space taxes for this space.
foam insulation on the outside of the basement walls can keep your basement
dry and provide a great heat sink. The footings and walls should be insulated
with 4Ē closed cell foam. These sheets of insulation should be covered with
chicken wire and plastered with cement on top half to prevent vermin
degradation. Insulating the basement walls on the outside also provides an
excellent base for the construction of the heat storage vault.
& & &
PV Panel Mounting.
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