Solar House


What is a Solar House?

Some people say it's a home with lots of skylights. Other people say it's house with lots of south facing windows. Unfortunately these definitions ignore the heat losses through the windows and skylights. A more acceptable definition should be about net energy contribution from sunlight. Today the generally acceped definition of a solar home requires the direct energy contribution from sunlight to be at least 50%. Of course oil is an indirect solar energy resource so we cann't include oil heated houses in our list of solar homes. Did you know average US homes consume over 1000 gallons of #2 fuel oil every year? Fortunately this wasteful heat energy consumption can be greatly reeduced by optomizing the: solar heat gain, the heat insulation and the heat storage. It goes without saying that PV grid tied installations are also important parts od the solar house equation.

The best choice for a solar home design depends on location as well as personal taste. One man's trash is another man's tresure. My model B home (to the left) may have great potential for some home owners, but it may not be practical for others. It's heated with a solar greenhouse that pumps rising greenhouse air into the living quartes containing lots of thermal mass to moderate temperature and store heat. Unfortunately there are so many south facing windows on this house that most of the heat gained during the day is lost at night. This five bedroom house with a detached16'x40' workshop may not be suitable for some people may be just what the doctor ordered for a carpenter-homesteader in the right location.

The links below explore energy conservation alternatives for both new home designs and retrofit home improvements. Of course the bset time to plan a sustainable living home is before it's built But there are always opportunities for improvements. Learn the basics so you'll be ready with a practical solar home plan of your own.

A house is only as good as it's foundation so if you're planning a solar home from scratch plan on a solid, well insulated foundation with the foundation wall insulated on the outside. If you're building your house on a slab you should insulate the slab from the ground with solid insulation. Don't forget the reinforcing mesh and the PEX tubes for radiant floor heating.