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Energy Efficient Construction
Environmental Design Consulting
Green Building and Development Techniques
Energy Efficient Construction
Environmental Design Consulting
Green Building and Development Techniques
Direct and Indirect Solar Homes
Direct and indirect solar homes are built and directionally oriented to take advantage of the suns natural heating in the winter and to keep as much of the suns’ heat out as possible in the summer. Combined with proper landscaping and natural cooling methods these homes can provide most if not all of the heating and cooling needs required to maintain comfortable living temperatures in a home. This concept is not new and most structures were built this way for thousands of years, but this concept has been lost over the last century along with the reliance on carbon based fuels to heat and cool our buildings. All new homes should and can be built in this manner to take advantage of the earths’ natural heating and cooling to not only reduce our carbon footprint and reduce utility bill expenses but also to provide more natural lighting within the structure.

Direct and indirect solar homes must be orientated on east west axis with primary window placement on the south side of the home to capture heat from the winter sun and keep heat our in the summer. Proper types of energy efficient windows must also be selected for four sides of the home and a proper amount of thermal mass must be added to the structure to absorb the suns’ heat coming inside the building in the winter. Inadequate mass will produce an uncomfortable environment as the home overheats during the day, requiring the excess heat to be vented out, and cold at night as the needed heat has been has vented out. Too much mass is a waste of materials and an unnecessary added construction expense. In addition, thermal mass added to walls is more efficient than floor mass. Thus, the amount and location of thermal mass must be calculated based on the square footage of glass placed on the south side of the structure and total square footage of floor space as well as where the mass is placed. This calculation was determined only after many failed attempts at building direct and indirect solar gain homes in the past.

Direct solar gain homes can provide all the structures heating needs in almost all locations of the United States. In fact, homes have been built in the upper elevations of Colorado as well as Montana that are heated comfortably all winter long using only natural heat provided by the sun. However, a supplemental heating supply such as a small high efficiency wood burning stove or small electric baseboard heaters should be added in case there are three or more successive days of cloudy weather. In addition, indirect solar gain homes can substantially reduce the heating requirements of the home, but must also directly rely on additional heating methods.

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