That title might fill you with apprehension and, in many ways, you'd be right: analyzing such a complex thing as a home's energy performance without using software is a daunting task. But it is possible. There are even several books which include worksheets and detailed descriptions of how to build a more accurate assessment than the one we'll outline here.
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If your passive solar home is properly designed and everything is optimized, one of the most cost-effective backup heating systems available may be wall-mounted space heaters. For homes which only need an occasional top-up of heat or for infrequently-used rooms, they are ideal.
Analyzing your passive solar home's energy performance by hand is long-winded, cumbersome, and prone to error. Between ten and twenty years ago, a variety of software tools appeared on the market, ranging from DOS-based utilities to basic Windows apps.
Over time, most of these programs have disappeared. Some were discontinued because they weren't popular enough, some vanished because they were based on obsolete operating systems, and others were simply discontinued through lack of support.
Modern wood stoves are not simple metal boxes to burn fuel in. They are much more efficient than traditional fireplaces and can be just as attractive. Stoves also rely on a renewable source of energy. Most modern wood stoves fit into one of two categories: radiant or circulating.
Designing a passive solar home is not the end of the road for sustainability. There are many more choices you can make to improve your home's sustainability and, at the same time, reduce the impact of traditional living on the environment.
"Thermal mass" is all the stuff inside your home which the sun can heat: it includes everything from the walls and floor to furnishings to special construction materials designed to absorb and retain warmth. When you talk to professional installers, it is unlikely they will include minor incidentals in their definition of the term - they're mostly concerned with dedicated mass such as concrete slabs and Trombe walls.
A good passive solar home design maintains a balance between solar and non-solar windows. Solar windows are those which face the sun, on the side of the house pointing true south; non-solar windows are those on the other sides.
Thermal mass is everything inside a home that absorbs, retains and later emits heat, effectively providing free heating. Like most things in home construction, there are many different approaches to its use.