When most people think of home solar heating, they picture panels attached to the roof or installed somewhere near the home. This is considered active solar heating and it is a great use of renewable energy. However, there are also advantages to the use of passive solar heating. With passive solar heating, oversized windows or glass doors are installed to allow the rays of the sun to enter. It is passive because there are no moving parts; only the sun warming our living space. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to passive solar heating.
The passive solar windows and doors should be placed on the side of the house which gets the longest period of sunshine. Here in New England windows facing slightly west of south will offer the best exposure. In order to prevent overheating from these windows during the warmer summer months, build overhangs sufficient to shade the summer sun. Because the summer sun shines from a much steeper angle, these overhangs will deflect unwanted heat and help to keep your home cooler during the warmer months.
A dedicated sun room built onto the sunny side of your house can provide passive solar heat as well. Ideally this room can be opened to your living space on days when it is warmed by the sun. However, it is best to be able to close this room from the living area on overcast days in which there is no direct solar heat to be gained.
Consider planting deciduous trees on the sunny side of your home. The foliage from these trees will offer needed shade during the summer months. However, during the winter, when the trees shed their leaves, the sun will be free to enter your home unobstructed.
In your south-facing room, install the type of floor which will absorb and store the heat of the winter sun. A masonry or ceramic tile floor works best. Floor alternatives such as wood or carpeting will not retain heat in the same way. Since these floor choices store very little heat, the length of time which you will benefit from a sunny winter day will be minimal.
Carefully select the type of furniture to be used in a passive solar room. Direct UV rays will fade and discolor furniture fabrics quickly. Be sure to use furniture which will not wear when exposed to direct sunlight.
The heat of the sun provides a dependable source of energy. By using passive solar heating, you get the benefit of this free heat while saving other resources.