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2007 Merit Award Winner

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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 8/24/2005


maybe we'll discover the best way to build and everyone else will follow in our footsteps.

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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 11/15/2005


News update.

Green building. About 20% of new commercial and 5% of residential is intentionally "green" building.

If one builds with an attempt towards energy savings, you are probably doing "green" construction, in a minor way. If you build for quality, material management and energy effiecent, you ARE on the path to a true "green built" home.

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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 3/24/2006


Dale,

     Is "passive solar" constuction the typical solar collection panels that you see on some homes or is there more to it than that??  Info on this topic is not easy to come by, any help would be great. 

Randy


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By John in Erie, CO on 3/24/2006


Passive solar is solar oriented design where the benefit (reduced heating bills) is realized without any extra "equipment".  Active solar is where solar panels of some type (usually hot water or hot air) are used to bring energy into the house, usually using some type of controls, pumps, valves, etc.

There is a lot to good passive solar design, but in simple terms, it might be orienting the house & selecting/placing windows to capture winter sun to reduced the time the furnace runs, perhaps having a dark thermal mass that the sun shines on inside an area, to release heat later.

The converse to this design is that you can get too much of it!  Too much passive solar gain will make a structure a bear to cool during the summer.  This is often countered with covered porches, decks, awnings, etc.  Good passive design will let the winter (low angle, at least in my area) sun in, but block the higher angle sun during the summer, so that the homeowner doesn't have to move shades around all the time, etc (thus becoming a little more 'active' than many of us want.

There are a ton of aspects to it, Hopefully dale will add some of his insight.  I have lots of early AM east sun and south sun through the day until about 4:00, so I tried to design to take advantage of this, while protecting my south/east glass from the sun during the summer through a covered deck.

Knowing your location, you can site your house, and orient it pretty much exactly to take advantage of the potential solar gain in your area.  There are sites on the internet that can help with this.

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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/25/2006


Great question, And I think John got a good start on explaining solar design.

Passive solar works IF you have the ability to orientate your home to take advantage of the sun's annual path. Ideally you want to allow winter sun in but keeping too much summer sun out. Here in Tucson we figure that March 20th is when we want to start excluding sun with overhangs, big leafy trees and such. Sept 20th is when we want to let it back in.

There are charts available that show optimum solar siting of your home. Typically you need to know when solar noon is, summer and winter points for sunrise and sunset and your latitude which determines how high the sun gets in the sky.

The ideal "passive" design takes all this into consideration and takes advantage of the full calendar. However most people can't do that. So you end up making compromises. Then you start adding active solar controls to make up for the compromises.

Active design can range from window shades to elaborate systems. Too often the return on "active" systems gets to be too long and its not worth doing on that house.

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