As with all forms of solar power – solar thermal, PV panels, solar chimneys and others – the amount and quality of sunlight to which a home is exposed is extremely important in holistic home design. Thankfully, again in common with many other forms of solar power, even areas that might appear at first sight to be far too gloomy can, in fact, provide enough energy to reduce heating bills by 50% or more.
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When you read about solar systems, especially solar thermal and passive systems, you may come across the "10-Degree Rule". The rule states that, wherever possible, a building should be constructed with the long axis facing within 10 degrees of true south (not magnetic south).
The reason for this rule is very simple: south-facing walls get the most sun (in the northern hemisphere). You want as much of a building as possible facing that way to gather as much heat and energy as possible.
The best advice is often the advice you hear every time you ask a question. In the case of solar energy, the best advice is always "fix everything you can fix before you start planning your project". If you plug all your leaks, improve your energy efficiency, and insulate your home properly, your solar energy installation can be smaller and will cost you less.
In most cases, we talk about thermal mass as something that absorbs and stores useful heat from the sun's light, releasing it when your home gets colder to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. However, it is possible to use thermal mass as an effective cooling mechanism.
Thermal walls, or Trombe walls, are the single most flexible passive solar option: they work in any climate and on any home, providing extra heat throughout the night after gathering heat during the day.
There are two types of cooling for passive solar homes: stuff that cools the house and stuff that cools the people inside the house. Humans do not react to heat in the same way as building materials, after all! There are two main ways of cooling a home's inhabitants:
As with all passive solar design options, Trombe walls are a great addition to your home design: they retain a lot of heat, helping to reduce your nighttime heating costs throughout the cool period of the year. However, again like all other options, they need to be used correctly or they won't do you any good.
There are two main effects of indoor air pollution. The first is the effect on the home itself: everything gets dirty, especially if the pollution is particulate matter (e.g. soot), and structural problems can arise from things like mold and mildew. The second is the effect on your health if you live in the home. Let's look at what can happen.