It doesn’t take much to live in a sun-inspired home. Passive solar design systems require no mechanical devices, but make use of 100% free sunlight. Solar homes are thoughtfully constructed using the same materials any home is built with, but these materials are rearranged to maintain comfortable temperatures year-round and maximize the natural flow of heat and air. For example, passive solar homes face south, where exposure to the sun is highest. Solar homes typically have a lot of natural light from windows and skylights, reducing the need for electric lighting. They are also well-insulated to maintain even temperatures in the home, making it easier to cool in hot weather and easier to heat in cold weather. Foliage is strategically located; deciduous trees are planted in sunny areas to provide shade in the summer, shedding their leaves to let the sun in during the winter.
These passive techniques can be combined with active methods, bringing in the use of solar-powered equipment for a naturally energized home. The most popular devices in the solar-powered home are photovoltaic (PV) modules, commonly known as solar panels, which collect the energy from sunlight and convert it into electricity. PV modules are made from a series of solar cells, made to absorb sunlight. Once photons from light enter, the semiconductive material of the cells frees electrons, in turn creating an electrical current that can be harvested by metal borders around each PV cell.
Solar thermal heating is another popular application of the sun’s energy in the home. It is commonly utilized to heat swimming pools as well as water for domestic purposes. Solar thermal heating is generally accomplished using flat-plate solar energy collectors, which intercept and absorb solar energy. Once the energy passes through, it is transported from the absorber via a heat-transport fluid and redistributed.
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