Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our Passive Solar Home

Our Passive Solar Home was just featured in a new home journal. You can read the article at The Country Home Journal .

We are pleased to see more and more people taking an interest in what can be done with solar energy. I get questions and comments from people all over the world sharing how they want to do the same as we have.

Please feel free to ask questions here about our home. You can find out more about our passive solar home along with watch a video at this page on our website http://www.livingonsolar.com/passive-solar.html


  1. Great pictures of a nice simple solar home.

    Question for you - do you wish now that you pitched your roof more steeply so that it would be closer to the ideal angle (approximatly your latitude?

    The reason I ask is you can see that you had to mount your solar water heater at an increased angle for more efficiency and if it was flush to the roof it probably would be easier and more secure.

  2. Hi Jason,

    Great question. There have been times when I thought that I would have liked a 6 in 12 pitch instead of the existing 4 in 12 pitch on my roof. My solar water panels are mounted at my latitude plus 15 degrees which is optimal for winter and still work great in the summer. At that angle the 6 in 12 would not even be enough.

    Since I have occasions to get up on the roof to cover or uncover attic vents, clean the wood burning stove pipe and to maintain the collectors, I have found that I like the flatter roof pitch since it is easier to walk on. The mounts that I made for the collectors have done well for the 20 years that they have been on the roof. I have had no problems with them even with 3 feet of snow on them. I also have easier access to the panels since they are tilted above the roof as opposed to flush with it.

  3. Question: How do you create "Cool Air" and how is it transfered into the dwelling? Do you exhaust the hot air from the attic and then draw in cool air at night to then insert into living space? What savings in costs have you achieved? what is the size of your dwelling? I have a building 74' wide x 145' long and 21' tall with a second floor dividing the building into two levels. I have a 3 in 12 pitch roof with black comp roofing. I currently have 2 downdraft gas furnaces to move the air within the structure. I need to achieve ave. temp between 68 to 72 degrees. This building is a min-storage project with 220 rooms and only garage doors on lower level. Can I use the attic space to both heat and cool this building? Any idea what the gas bills would average? Sincerely, John Jordan arclockventuri@gmail.com if you have any ideas?

  4. Hi John,

    A passive solar home is basically designed to heat itself using the sun and not necessarily cool itself. Cooling is achieved by other methods. My home is 1600 square feet in size. I have a 4 in 12 pitch roof. It is designed to not let the sun shine in the windows in the summertime. Where I live the daytime temperatures can reach the 100's in the summer. I have installed 2 attic turbines on my roof to vent the excess heat from the attic. This helps keep the home from heating up. Nighttime temperatures are much cooler in the night here. Last night, July 7, it was in the 50's. We opened up the windows and let the house cool off for the next day. We also use a solar evaporative cooler that we made. You can see it on our website http://www.livingonsolar.com/ I do not know of any design that uses the heat in the attic to heat the living area. I suppose that it could be used. I would not have any idea what the gas bills would be for your building. The best way to heat and cool a building is to take advantage of all possible natural means, solar for heat, proper orientation of windows and overhangs, proper insulation, etc. The additional heating and cooling that is required will then be at a minimum.

  5. Do you have any numbers to show the amount of heating passive solar provides? Thanks, Joe

  6. Hi Joe,
    I do not have any readily available numbers. The particular climate where one lives along with the specific design will change from area to area. I have not dusted off the books I used over 20 years ago. There are books available that can give all the details. I am away from home right now but will check my books when I return to see if there are some basic numbers that can be used.

  7. I am finally home after an extended trip away from home. I pulled out some of my old books and glanced through them. I sometimes have a tendancy to over analyze things when it comes to answering questions. In answer to the question do I have any numbers that show the amount of heating passive solar provides, the books say 80% to 90% is possible. The best answer I can give is based upon my own experience. The proof is in the pudding. My home that is shown in the video provides somewhere between 50% and 80% of our heating. We use 3 cords of wood per year to provide the extra heat necessary on those cold spells and when the sun does not shine. We live on 35 acres that is full of trees that need to be managed. It costs us the price of oil and gas for the chainsaw to provide those 3 cords of wood. If we get lazy and do not want to cut and split the wood ourselves, it costs about $450 in our part of the country.

  8. Hello
    I have enjoyed reading about your home. We are going to be building very soon. I am interested in knowong about your windows.
    What brand and type of windows did you use in your house on the south side? it is so confusing. I think the "Green" movement has just made it even more so.
    Thank you!

  9. We have double pane windows throughout the house. I believe the R value of a double pane window is around 2. A tripple pane is 3. Not a lot compared to R-19 in the walls. I would not recommend the brand that we used. Almost all of them have lost their seal and have water in between. This may be a problem with all double pane windows as I hear from many others with this problem. In our area, building codes require double pane windows. They are definitely better than single pane. I do not know what brand to recommend. Some are probably better than others. I just do not know which.

  10. What's the appropriate overhang for East facing windows in Virginia?
    I'm in the process of enclosing a porch and would like to optimize the Winter time passive heating potential. Summer cooling/shading is not too much of a problem as the house sits at nearly 4,000 ft. ASL (it was 35°F @ 6 AM on July 3rd, 2010!!)

  11. In a passive design the important overhang is on the south. The morning sun can do some early heating into the house from the East but directly through the windows. The overhang would not be a factor there. Is the porch on the East? On the South face the overhang can be designed differently depending on when you want the sun to stop or start shining in the window (usually sometime in late spring and early fall).

  12. Hi,Thanks for leading me to your Blog from a comment left on my Blog, some great stuff here, will bookmark it,Thanks again!