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What Is Passive Solar Heating? How Does It Work?

construction of a modern house with passive solar heating

Passive Solar Heating is an excellent energy-efficient heating method that doesn’t require expensive solar panels or boilers on your roof. It uses the sun’s energy for heating by taking advantage of the climate, materials, and building site to minimize energy usage. That’s why you need to think about the design and materials you will use for your home.

Passive solar heating doesn’t generate greenhouse gasses, so it’s a fantastic option for both you and the environment. Homes built with this heating method are usually bright and warm, which increases comfort. We’ll provide you with information and details about passive solar heating, along with the advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully, this article will help you to familiarize yourself with passive solar heating and maybe even choose it as a heating method for your home.

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How Does Passive Solar Heating Work?

You need to accomplish several different steps for passive solar heating to work. Here’s what you should know about passive solar heating systems and their functionality.

Energy efficiency

For a home to be designed for passive solar heating, you need to invest in energy efficiency. First of all, the home must be well insulated and have well-sealed windows and doors. The house needs to be sealed to be more resistant to air leakage to keep the heat inside. Well-sealed windows and doors will allow hot air to stay inside the home rather than be released outside. Proper insulation can save up to 20% of your home heating costs.

Windows

The position of the windows is crucial for passive solar heating to work correctly because they act as collectors.  That’s why it’s best to have large, south-facing windows that will allow sunlight to enter your home. That way, they will soak up the most sunlight during cold months. If it’s summer and the house feels too warm, you can install shades or other coverings for cooling.

If you live in a colder area with limited sun exposure, it might be better to have tilted glass such as skylights. That will help you collect more sunlight than regular windows.

We mentioned that the windows should be properly sealed, and a typical window type for passive solar designs are triple-glazed windows. Your windows should have six hours of undisturbed light exposure for proper heating. The space between glazing layers helps prevent heat loss.

Thermal Mass

Another essential thing for passive solar heating is thermal mass. Thermal mass represents surfaces that maintain heat such as stone, brick, or concrete. It absorbs light and holds heat, which will make your home warmer during the cold months. When the sun is bright, the thermal mass will soak in the heat and transfer it into your home. It’s best to go for a thermal mass material that’s darker in color because dark colors absorb more sun. The thermal mass will stabilize the temperature in your home and make it comfortable during winter.

Distribution and air circulation

For passive solar heating to function without issues, you need to ensure that your air circulation is working well. Heat is transferred to your home by convection, conduction, and radiation. Properly designed passive solar heating homes won’t need any device for air circulation because the design will allow air to flow through the house, but you could also have small fans and blowers to help you distribute heat throughout the house if needed. Air circulation will also bring fresh air with minimal heat loss into the home.

Control of the temperature

Another critical step for passive solar heating to work is controlling the temperature. Since the temperature in homes that use passive solar heating depends on the outside temperature, you should have some adjustments to help with temperature management. That’s why you need to have roof overhangs that are appropriately sized or other electronic-sensitive devices that control heating. Also, you can set up shades on windows when you need cooling during hotter months.

To sum it up, these are the five elements of a passive solar design:
  • Collector
  • Absorber
  • Thermal mass
  • Distribution
  • Control

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What’s the difference between active and passive solar systems?

Active and passive solar systems are entirely different. While active solar systems need a device that will convert the sun’s energy into usable energy, passive solar systems do not need any type of device. Active solar systems are dependable on a device, whereas passive solar systems depend on the home’s design. So the success of passive solar heating depends on the thermal mass and orientation.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of passive solar heating?

Passive solar heating has a lot of benefits, but of course, it has some flaws as well. If you’re considering passive solar heating for your home, you should be familiar with the pros and cons of the whole system. Below you can find the advantages and disadvantages of passive solar heating systems.

Advantages

Passive Solar Heating Setup

Unlike active solar heating systems, passive solar heating works without any equipment. It relies only on the home’s design, and therefore, the initial setup for passive solar heating will cost less than active solar heating systems. You won’t need to buy any special devices, and as long as your home is appropriately designed, the heating should be working without any issues.

Cost savings

You’ll already save a lot more money on passive solar heating systems than on active ones because you do not need to buy any devices. Also, once the passive solar design is set up, your energy usage will be reduced by 25% or more. Your electricity bills will be lower, while your home will be warm throughout the cold months.

Promotes renewable energy

Passive solar heating systems promote renewable energy, which is our future. Your home will be warm and beautiful while significantly impacting the environment around you. Passive solar heating systems leave no carbon footprint, so it’s an excellent heating solution that promotes solar energy in its best form.

Disadvantages

Needs professional setup

Home design is the most important thing when setting up passive solar heating. That’s why you will have to include professionals to create the design and setup. That might be pricey, but they know the best ways to make the most out of the design for your passive solar heating systems to function correctly.

Efficiency depends on the weather

The efficiency of passive solar heating systems depends on the weather. This can be a disadvantage because it can be cold inside if your home isn’t getting enough sunlight due to the weather. Also, if your home is getting too much sunlight, there can be an overheating problem. That’s why you should always consider the climate you live in when setting up passive solar heating systems.

No immediate heat

Since passive solar systems soak up the sun to heat the house, the heat won’t be immediate. It will take some time for sunlight to reach the home and spread through it to heat it. So if you’re looking for a rapid heating solution, passive solar heating might not be for you.

How much does passive solar heating cost?

There is no direct price of passive solar systems because they rely on the home’s design. The price can vary depending on the windows you choose, thermal mass material, and other design elements. So, the best way to find out the cost is to think about the design and consult with an expert to give you an estimate once you decide how you would like the home to look once finished. They will provide you with all the details, along with design options you can choose from.

Is passive solar heating popular?

Passive solar heating is becoming more and more popular, but there are people who still haven’t heard of it. There’s no doubt that once we raise awareness about the benefits of passive solar heating, people will start using this heating system more. Until then, try to educate yourself and others about this amazing eco-friendly house heating technique.

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Conclusion

Passive solar heating is a unique system designed to help you reduce costs, save energy, and heat your home. There’s no need for expensive devices and equipment, and all you need is a sustainable home design that fits into passive solar heating needs.

So if you’re considering going solar, try out the passive solar heating system in addition to an active solar heating system. You’ll be amazed once you see how well the system functions and how much money you’ll save on bills.


Featured Image Credit: Radovan1, Shutterstock

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