You can’t change the orientation of your house, but you can use passive solar design to capture more heat.
It’s amazing just how much heat the sun provides if you know how to use it. A home with an east-west ridgeline takes in less northern sun in the summer and more southern sun in the winter, saving at least 10 percent in heating and cooling costs and as much as 40 percent. If you’re looking to buy or build a home, this is important information.
Soak up the Sun
If you’re building a home or house hunting and want to get the most passive solar energy you can, the ideal shape is a long rectangle with short walls facing east and west. Long walls with fewer windows on the north side reduce the amount of heat entering in summer. Plenty of windows facing south will catch the most passive solar heat. The ideal windows will be double paned with low-E glazing with Solar Heat Gain Coefficient greater than 0.70.
The right flooring helps to capture the heat and release it back into the room slowly at night. We usually think of tile as a cold material, but stone materials like concrete and tile, especially in darker colors work best at holding heat.
Maximizing Passive Heat in Existing Homes
You can’t re-orient your house, but you can still take other steps to maximize passive heat gains. The standby methods of tight insulation are givens. But using passive-solar design principles can help even more. For example, roller shades fitted inside window frames with no more than a quarter inch gap at the sides will create an air buffer between windows and the outdoor cold. Insulated drapes can also do this. Open southern facing shades during sunlight hours and consider replacing flooring on south-facing windows with darker shades of tile.
Besides smart flooring choices, planting beds can help you take advantage of the enormous potential of water and earth to hold heat. Not only do these materials hold energy, they the decay of composting matter in the soil creates its own heat.
Keeping a pool of water inside a dark container would be an ideal heat sink if water didn’t tend to encourage mold growth and containers didn’t leak. For surprisingly little money, however, you can purchase floor-to-ceiling fiberglass tubes that hold water. When dyed a dark color, the water captures and holds heat from the sun. But the danger of leakage is still an issue.
A planting bed can capture heat well with less risk of damage. Besides holding heat, large planters help to purify indoor air. Large concrete planters can be lined with waterproof materials and installed atop waterproof linings to ensure the least danger of damage if a leak occurs.
Efficient Heating and Passive Solar Design Will Maximize Savings
Of course, an inefficient heating system will benefit less from passive solar heating techniques. If your heating system is aging, consider a new system and an insulation upgrade. Call MM Comfort Systems at 425.533.9058 or use our online contact form for a free home heating consultation to find out how much we can help you save on home heating.