Passive Solar Power

More About Isolated Gain Solar

Isolated gain, another type of passive solar power, is most often achieved through the use of a sunspace or solarium. Such a room is often built onto an already existing home and is used to give both a warming effect as well as an aesthetic effect to a home.

In such rooms, the use of overhead glass or glazing is not recommended (as what you would find in a greenhouse) due to the strong possibility of overheating during the day and fast heat loss at night.

Vertical windows lining such a room would allow passive solar heating to occur, and just as in direct and indirect gain, the walls and floor, made up of dark masonry, would store solar heat energy to be released later. In such a room with a large number of windows it is also important to not that low emissivity (Low-E) windows are used to further reduce the loss of heat energy.

Thermal mass, such as dark containers of water and additional masonry structures, may be added in order to store more heat energy. Also as a part of such a room, there are normally doors that can easily separate the room from the house, especially on cold, cloudy days when solar activity may be too low to adequately heat the space.

Many passive solar designs can be incorporated into new homes and buildings by orienting the home towards the south, placing most of the windows on the south side of the structure, and making use of trees, skylights, outdoor shades and other natural features that will maximize the use of the sun.

Other passive solar design concept that works well is to place living areas facing solar noon, to get the most sun during the day, and to place bedrooms and sleeping areas on the opposite side of the house.

For example, a home that already has a sunroom or solarium, but has no masonry floor or walls, may benefit from simply adding dark masonry structures, water containers or decorative stone or clay items to help to store the passive solar power.

In areas where the sun can overheat your home, a good passive solar design will incorporate strategically located objects such as moveable shades and window quilts to provide shade and cooling, as well as to store heat.

Passive Solar Challenges

There are some features in a home that will create more difficulty in creating an even temperature in a passive solar home. These incude open staircases, which create an uneven temperature between lower and upper floors, and too many corners in a home, which creates a larger volume of air to heat and cool.

One of the challenges of creating a home that successfully uses passive solar power is that the strength of the sun varies from day to day and season to season. The sunlight is also variable at different times of the year even though it may be in the same position, for example, three weeks before and three weeks after the summer solstice.

This phenomenon is known as "thermal lag" creates the need for flexibility in passive solar house design, so that the home can easily adapt to the changing position and strength of the sun.

Whichever type of passive solar heating you select be sure to carefully consider your needs, options, and the price of any changes that may be necessary, as well as the climate in your area and the location of your property. Always consider all solar energy advantages and disadvantages when you are determining your solar energy needs.

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