With the summer sun receding, thoughts of ample light and heat are also fading. Winter winds and fewer hours of daylight will be here sooner than we’d like. At Yankee Barn Homes, instead of seeing the sun’s energy as a fleeting thing, we see it as a major source of power. YBH can design your home in a way that actively captures the benefits of heat and light. We are all about passive solar design.
Passive Solar Design by Definition
Notwithstanding its name, passive solar does mean you’re actively harnessing the sun’s energy (heat and light) to a home’s advantage.
A home without passive solar design will:
– be oriented for views or to “fit” with the streetscape;
– place windows for views or aesthetics;
– be landscaped for aesthetic purposes.
A home with passive solar design will:
– be designed to take advantage of the sun’s path – i.e., a garage will not be placed on the southern side of the house, taking solar energy and light gain from living spaces;
– include large massing of windows designed to best capture light and heat in the winter and utilize heat shades to avoid solar heat gain in the summer;
– use larger deciduous trees and shrubs to shade the house in the summer while allowing more heat and light to enter the home in the winter.
As with active solar techniques, passive solar design can lower electric bills. With the sun’s heat blocked by clever landscaping, orientation, and window design, a homeowner can save on summer air conditioning costs. In winter, if designed properly, the sun’s rays will enter the home and warm it, reducing heating costs. Homeowners are also generally more comfortable in a passive solar home, as natural light becomes the dominant lighting source. YBH designers are highly trained and skilled at considering all aspects of passive solar gain when creating a house plan.
Make the Sun Work for You
Many passive solar strategies are simply thoughtful design. Here are some considerations.
1) Which side of the home will receive the most sun? This is a two-part consideration, as heat and light are both important factors when orienting the home. Typically, passive solar design won’t include a two-car garage on the sunniest part of the property. Instead, this space would be saved for living spaces that would benefit from natural light and the sun’s heat in the winter.
2) Go one step further and map out the plots of wind patterns. Does it make sense to rotate the home to capture some cooler summer breezes?
1) Window placement is key in passive solar homes. Think about “a day in the life” of the sun – where is natural light needed the most, and where will it create glare? Will excessive windows on the southern side (without additional protection) overload the home with heat and light in the summer?
2) Should shading devices on windows be installed to prevent the sun’s energy from entering the home? When angled in response to the sun’s path, shading devices will still allow ample light and heat into the home in colder months, and block out unwanted rays at the peak of summer. These shading devices can blend in with the home’s design while providing maximum benefit to homeowners.
Once planned and built, passive solar design will continue to provide their benefits with no recurring costs to homeowners. To get the maximum benefits from passive solar strategies, it is important to design with passive solar in mind from day one. Re-orienting a finished house or redesigning a facade is next to impossible for most, and good design from the beginning will keep long-term costs down and benefits up. Incorporate active solar strategies, like solar panels, as well – but remember, these will work best on a rooftop that is already designed in line with the sun.