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Use passive solar design

The sun offers an unlimited source of energy and with passive solar design, you can use passive solar energy to help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Using passive solar design such as windows and thermal mass can save a huge amount of energy.

During the warm months, in the northern hemisphere, south facing windows should be blocked using shutters, blinds, curtains or awnings. In the southern hemisphere, you should block north facing windows. By blocking the passive solar energy, you’ll keep the solar heat out of your home, helping to keep it cool. Another good way to block the sunlight in the summer is using deciduous trees for shade. If you live in a warm climate, it’s also a good idea to make your roof white, as this will reflect solar energy.

In warm climates, you should also have ample windows on the east side of your home, and if possible, avoid having windows on the west side. This will keep the hot afternoon sun out.

To keep your home warm in the winter months, you can add more windows to the equator side of your home. The best way to do this if you have the space for it is to add a solarium to the side of your home facing the equator. If you are building your home, it is best to make sure the northern side faces as close to true north as possible and vice versa. Fans can be installed in the solarium, which circulate the warm air into the rest of the home. At night when solarium cools down, you can turn off the fans and close all of the doors to the solarium. Avoid using roof angle glass or skylights.

In addition to the use of windows, the other key to warming a home using passive solar energy is to use something called thermal mass. Materials used for thermal mass absorb the heat from the sun, and store it, gradually releasing it over time. This means the sun’s energy can continue to warm your home even after the sun has set.

The best thermal mass materials include concrete, brick, stone, tile and heavy wood. If you can use these materials on the floors and walls where the sun shines in, they will gradually release the heat over time. It is best if the materials are a dark color. While concrete is not the best choice for the environment, if you look for concrete with a high percentage of fly ash that has been heated using a dry kiln process, it’s more environmentally friendly.

Passive solar energy and design have been used for centuries, and it remains a great idea today, with the potential to save a lot of energy, and over time, money too.