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Solar Home Plans

While no two solar homes are exactly the same, most are built using the same basic principals. This article will highlight some of the elements that give a home enough efficiency, utility, and resourcefulness to be called “solar.”

Orientation

Because the sun is the guiding and empowering force behind all things solar, it’s no surprise that solar homes are built to face the sun. This means that the rooms most frequently inhabited are situated on the south side, where they can absorb heat, even from the low-lying winter sun.

Shading

Shading is a critical tool for keeping the home at a cozy temperature. It should be available during the hot summer months and can manifest in window coverings, skylight coverings, trees, and landscaping. Inversely, shading should be reduced in the winter.

This leads to another critical factor in home design: windows. Like the placement of high-traffic rooms, the majority of a home’s windows should face the south side of a home. Be careful, though, because overglazing can also lead to temperature extremes.

Thermal Mass

Thermal mass occurs when the sun has heated a solid or liquid object to such an extent that it stays warm long after the sun stops shining. Solar homes do not let this stored energy go to waste. Solar slabs made from adobe, brick, stone, concrete, or other heat-conducive material are placed in walls or floors to absorb heat and help maintain uniform temperatures.

Insulation

Proper insulation can make the difference between a poorly ventilated home and an energy-efficient one. Solar homes are insulated at every surface that separates the interior of the home from the exterior world. This includes the walls, floors, and ceilings of attics, garages, porches, crawl spaces, and basements.

Attached Greenhouses or Sunrooms

Greenhouses and sunrooms are a great solar addition, especially since their benefits can flow to the rest of the house via entryways and connective air flows.



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