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How To Warm Up Your Home Using Passive Solar Heating

Passive solar heating is a way in which the sun’s rays are harnessed in ways integrated into a building in order to use the sun to provide heat for the building. Many newly built houses incorporate it, as it can save a lot of money heating and also be very aesthetically pleasing as well.

However, older houses can be remodeled to use sunlight optimally or sun rooms can be added to an existing structure. This form of heating is best used as part of the façade of a house, not in the form of conservatories and sunrooms. When the sun shines, the heat is transported into the building through windows and other glass elements. Both new building and existing houses can use passive solar heat to partly or fully heat themselves.

Benefits of Using Passive Solar Heating

There are numerous benefits to passive solar heat, and extend much further than just providing warmth:

  • It is free;

  • It will work as long as the house stands;
  • It does not necessarily have to cost extra to integrate this form of heating when building a house;
  • If passive solar heating is used efficiently, it is possible to use it as the sole source of heating in a home;
  • As this form of heat normally is harnessed through glass surfaces, often it will make the lighting of the house much better: another way to save on the power bill and have a greener house.

If a winter garden is added to a house, it can be used both for heat and for growing fruits and vegetables, for example in a solar greenhouse. However, passive solar heat can overheat a house in the summer, which is impossible to regulate. Therefore it is very important to consider the placement of glass surfaces and to make sure that the room can be aired easily.

Screens and curtains can be added to shield a room from the sun. Plant life can also provide some shade. The energy savings disappear if heat is used to heat a glass addition to a house, in order to make the room the same temperature all year. The loss of heat will be greater than in the rest of the house, as sunrooms are not insulated. Another disadvantage of large windows can be the loss of privacy; as mentioned, placement should always be considered.

Using Passive Solar Heating in Your Home

There are many ways to use passive solar heat for your home. A few are listed below:

  • A sun wall 

This is a brand new technology that is not available everywhere. A sun wall is a layered outer wall, where the outer layer consists of metal, glass or some other transparent material. This can be in the shape of an outer, transparent surface insulation or a combined façade insulation, solar collector and/or solar cell construction. The energy from a solar wall can be used to preheat ventilation air in a house or for heating. If the solar wall is used for preheating air, the next layer will be a hollow space that leaves room for the air. 

Because of the heat of the sun, the air rises through the space, where it is heated further and transported on to the ventilation system or directly to the desired rooms. If a solar wall is used for heating the next layer, there will be a heat accumulating wall after the transparent layer. It has as large mass that is heated through the sun during the day and which will slowly heat your room.

  • Glass structures

Glass additions can also contribute to passive solar heating. These should be normally placed facing east or west, however, in some cases north east provides the most benefits. Additions facing south will often overheat a house in the summer months. To avoid over-heating in a sun room for example, it should have a solid room and not a glass roof on some or all of the roof's surface. 

Furthermore, it should always be possible to shield the room at least somewhat from the sun and the glass should have a low U-value, which means losing only a minimum amount of heat. As mentioned, it is also important that the addition is for heating the rest of a building and does not have to be heated itself. To achieve the optimal airing options, it is a good idea to have windows both low and high up, so fresh air can be draw through the room. Since heat rises, the upper windows should be placed as high as possible.

If you are building a new house there a many ways to use passive solar heat. Below are a few things that should always be considered:

In the summer the sun is high in the sky and it is important that it is possible to shield the room from the top of it. In the winter, on the other hand, the sun is low and need to be able to reach the room through the lower part of it. 

The size and placement of widows and glass surfaces should be adjusted to the rooms need for hear, well as to the building’s ability to store heat, i.e. in heavy walls and floors.

It is important to plan the placement of additions and large glass surfaces according to what rooms you wish to heat. For example, placing a sun room facing east will make it heat up in the morning after having been cooled down all night. However, if a house contains floors and walls that store heat well, a sun room facing west will gather up heat during the day that will then slowly be released into the house.

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