Homeowners are more energy-conscious than ever before. Thanks to rising energy prices and increasing awareness of the impact we have on the environment, there is now a growing movement in the United States that is focused on reducing the energy we consume on a daily basis. While the prospect of saving both money and the environment is an alluring one, not everyone is ready or willing to shell out the cash to retrofit their homes with an extensive solar panel installation. While solar technology has made great strides in recent years, it still has a long way to go before becoming efficient enough to be a financially prudent option sans large government subsidies.
Fortunately, there is an alternative for those who want a way to save the environment and money on their energy bills. Passive solar design is a simple yet effective way to decrease your energy costs without the need for expensive and maintenance-prone solar panels. The concept is simple: build or modify parts of the home in a way that takes advantage of the heat from the sun. There are several ways to do this, all of which involve capturing heat from the sun and distributing it without the use of mechanical or electrical devices.
Have a Sunroom? You’re on Your Way to Energy Efficiency.
If you have a sunroom, you are already taking advantage of passive solar design. The floor-to-ceiling windows you currently use to enjoy the view of your backyard is also allowing sunlight to enter the room and heat it without the need for a central heating system. While this is an example of how simple passive solar design can be, it is far from the only technique that can be used. There are a number of modifications that can be made to an existing sunroom to make your home more energy-efficient.
One relatively simple modification is to add ventilation near the ceiling that connects the sunroom to the rest of the house. Because heat rises, the air near the ceiling will gradually make its way into the rest of the house, reducing the need for central heating. Some homeowners even add a small fan near the vents to help blow the air through. Adding these vents can dramatically reduce the money you spend on heating your home this winter!
There are also a number of passive solar techniques that can increase the amount of heat the sunroom absorbs. This will of course have the added benefit of increasing the amount of heat blowing into the main part of the house, further reducing your heating costs! A couple of popular passive solar techniques include:
Insulation is almost always used in the construction of contemporary homes. However, traditional insulation materials cannot be used on a sunroom with primarily glass walls. Instead, homeowners can use a special type of window glaze that helps prevent heat from escaping, similar to how a greenhouse operates.
Thermal Mass is a form of passive heat storage that helps equalize the amount of heat produced throughout the day. Thermal mass materials can be added to a sunroom and to the main part of the house. Thermal mass can be created with something as simple as water held in piping or special types of concrete. These materials absorb some of the heat during the day and gradually release it at night, which helps reduce excess heat during the day and provides some passive heating during the cold night.
There are numerous other ways to take advantage of passive solar design in your sunroom. Although it is certainly possible to make passive solar design modifications to an existing sunroom, it is preferable to have your sunroom initially built by a contractor that has a thorough knowledge of the concepts and techniques that passive solar design requires. Either way, you’ll be saving money and the environment without spending tens of thousands of dollars on solar panels!