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Relieve Your Mechanical HVAC System With Passive Solar Home Design

Relieve Your Mechanical HVAC System With Passive Solar Home Design

For years, before mechanical HVAC systems were invented, homeowners relied on passive solar design to heat and cool their homes, as well as natural ventilation methods. As HVAC technologies came about and construction improved, builders in Buford and across the nation reveled in nearly unlimited access to heating and cooling.

Today, however, with the need to conserve natural resources, builders and homeowners alike are turning to once-rejected natural methods for heating and cooling homes. While some of these methods must be utilized during the building stages of a house, you can implement a few of these tips in an existing home, too.

Passive solar homes take advantage of nature, using the sun’s rays as a heat source in the winter while deflecting the hot sun to keep the interior cool in the summer. Instead of using a mechanical system to generate conditioned air and then pumping that air into the home, strategically placed windows and building materials do their part to condition the environment.

Here are a few examples:

  • Windows that face true south and don’t vary by more than 30 degrees take full advantage of the sun. If left unblocked between the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the sun will shine into the house and keep the south-facing rooms warm. If you have existing windows that face south, leave the drapes open during the day. If you’re designing a home, make sure that the windows in your living area face south while the bedroom windows face north. Plan your landscaping to fully shade the south-facing windows during summer.
  • An “absorber,” normally a floor or wall, acts as a storage device for heat. It should be strategically positioned in the home so that sunlight hits it. The absorber takes on energy and releases it slowly as heat.
  • Acting as another absorber of sorts, a thermal mass in the home also retains and stores heat but is hidden beneath a wall or floor so that as many areas as possible that receive sunlight also give off heat.
  • A distribution system moves heat around, encouraging air circulation throughout the home and allowing the heat stored in the absorber and thermal mass to move around. In some homes, fans and blowers enhance circulation.
  • Natural ventilation employs open windows to create a chimney effect, where cool air enters the first floor, picking up heat energy and rising to the second story and/or attic, where it exits the home. Simultaneously, the chimney effect draws in additional air from the lower floor.

There are obvious benefits to using a mechanical HVAC system. Energy-efficient HVAC systems are reliable and offer 24/7 access to comfort - but at a price. They require a sizable up-front investment and monthly payments for the energy that they use.

In the future, a return to natural home design methods may help homeowners depend less on their HVAC equipment, conserve natural resources, limit greenhouse gases and stay comfortable.