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Small Mountain on Passive Solar Design

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Any new house can use passive solar design before it is built. It is as simple as facing the longest walls with the most windows toward the sun. At least that part is free, the thermal mass (heat storage) can be as simple as a quarry tile floor on top of an insulated concrete slab. If money is tight the slab can be dyed when finished (gray, red or brown and it doesnt have to be very dark). The thermal mass will keep daytime temps down and nightime temps up. The sun will shine in the windows, warm the mass and store the heat. This is called "Direct Gain" and is one of the three types of passive solar design. Some of our Native American cliff dwellings are another fine example. The winter sun shines on the rock of the dwellings and the rock face behind warming all that mass for when the sun goes down. In the summer the sun is much higher in the sky so the cliff overhang shades the rock and keeps it cool. A properly designed home is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

The second type of passive solar design is "Indirect Gain". If we take that same house and make that south facing wall out of brick or block with glass on the outside, add a few vents top and bottom to circulate the heat we have what the French call a Trombe Wall home. The wall is sized to provide a time lag, it takes all day for that heat to get in that house (temp is regulated with the vents). Windows can be placed in that Trombe Wall if so desired.

The third type of passive solar design is an attached greenhouse.  This is my favorite type as it is easy to do on existing homes.  By attaching a greenhouse to the south side of the house with the proper mass sizeable reductions in the heating bills will be noticed.  It is also easy to put a passive solar hot water system in at the same time.

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