At Fine Line Homes, we love passive solar design. There is no better energy source on earth than the sun itself, and passive solar design and construction can mitigate expenses like heating and air conditioning in your custom home while also offering interesting design features. As your local builder of energy efficient custom homes we have experience building energy efficient custom homes that work in Calgary’s northern climate. A well-designed passive solar home begins with a comprehensive plan in the hands of highly competent builders with experience at passive solar construction.
Step One: Site Selection.
The best strategy for achieving a passive solar home is to have an unobstructed view to the south to let the sun work for you. Lots with a good a good north to south orientation are a good start, but make sure to have a look at details like zoning, existing landscaping on yours or a neighbour’s property, and other issues that may cause issues for your design. If everything doesn’t line up, consider either moving on to another lot or changing the design of the home.
Step Two: Decide on the features of your passive solar home plan
If you have outdoors experience, or have viewed Les Stroud, you may have already seen how a passive solar home works in principle. Picture a campfire and a log “reflector” to the windward side of the fire. The fire radiates its heat to the reflector, which in turn bounces it back to the people sitting nearby.
The house works the same way. The sun comes streaming in through a series of south facing windows, which have been carefully angled and sized, strikes purposely chosen and located materials, such a tiled floor or a concrete wall, and the solar energy is absorbed. As the evening cools, this trapped heat is released back to the house as warmth. As the materials cool, they keep the home comfortable at night and prevent it from warming too rapidly the following morning.
Step Three: Allow for movement
If you can remember high school science classes, houses are also giant convectors and conductors. Convection involves the natural movement of warm air from one area to another, and conduction happens when warmth or energy is transferred through touch. Designers can work with both of these principles to encourage the natural movement of air, for example, the warm air from a solarium can create a current though a hallway. Air can also be moved using thoughtfully placed blowers or fans
The amount of a home’s heating load that the solar friendly materials, called the thermal mass, can handle is called the passive solar fraction. This figure is arrived at as a calculation between the glazing of the glass, the volume of the thermal mass, the amount of which takes into account the local climate, and even the seasonal angles of the sun. The glass not only needs to be properly oriented, it needs to be shaded in summer, and yet allow the maximum amount of winter light through to achieve warming effects.
At Fine Line Homes we encourage you to leverage our experience with energy efficient building techniques and design to get the ultimate performance of your custom passive solar home.