Save energy even during hot Texas summers
Basically, designing your home to incorporate passive solar is all about paying attention to what's going on in the natural environment that surrounds your home. Passive solar design is a technique that has dated back as far as we have had dwellings. It requires no special technology, just your attention.
Things to pay attention to include where the sun rises and sits in relation to your home — You will want to take notice to this feature, because your climate will dictate whether you will want to block out or absorb the morning and evening sun. For example, I am in a hot climate, so we are always looking to orient and design the home so that the least amount of sun reaches inside the home when the sun rises and sets, which would require our air conditioning to kick in and compensate. This also means that we minimize the amount of glazing (i.e. windows, doors) on the east and west sides of our homes, and when present we incorporate overhangs, porches, shutters or landscaping strategies to control the sun's infiltration into the home.
Paying attention to the seasons — even in our hot climate in Texas we want the sun to reach inside the home during the winter months, which will assist in heating the home. We therefore invest attention into strategically placing windows on the south side of our homes with the proper overhangs. In the winter the sun sets lower in the sky than it does in the summer, so we design overhangs that block the summer sun out, but allow the winter sun in. Planting deciduous plants and trees also helps reinforce this method, because as they lose their leaves in the winter they allow sun to reach the home.
Noticing the natural habitat — we once had a homeowner who would drive out to his site and watch how the wildlife would nest on his land. He noticed that in the hottest months of the year the deer would congregate and sleep in one particular shaded area that stayed cool, and in the winter months they would return to this same location as it was at the bottom of a bluff that blocked the harsh northern winter wind. This is where he ultimately located his home on his land, as the natural habitat provided the most protection and aid. Fortunately he was building on 100+ acres, so the deer had plenty of other locations to settle into.
Lastly, we have strong southerly winds in our region. As a result, we position operable windows on the north and south of our homes so that we capture these breezes, which aid in cooling the home and ultimately delay the use of air conditioning.
When incorporating passive solar strategies into your project, you are essentially aiming to work with the natural environment as much as possible, instead of working against it. When this approach is taken, it will save you operating costs and result in a much more comfortable, harmonious dwelling.
Read more about passive solar techniques.
Heather Ferrier Laminack Representing the fourth generation of the Ferrier Companies, Heather Ferrier Laminack functions as the marketing manager for Texas-based green home builder Ferrier Custom Homes, utilizing her passion for sustainable building practices and her first-hand experience of green building techniques.