Heating and cooling can be an expensive aspect of owning a home, and while energy efficient systems can help ease the associated cost, there are other passive solutions as well. Passive heating and cooling involves manipulating the sun’s energy to regulate the internal temperature of the home. This can often be done by using shade structures, wind blocks, south facing windows, and energy efficient building materials.
Passive solar design involves designing a home to allow the sun to enter or be shaded out depending on the seasonal position of the sun. While many of us cannot redesign our homes to accommodate this, there are many other options.
Passive cooling can help alleviate high air conditioning bills in the hotter summer months. Using shade is one of the easiest ways to cool your home. Shade awnings and trees/shrubs are great ways to reduce the amount of sun entering your home. Retractable awnings or movable shade structures cool your home in the summer and can be removed in the winter to allow sunlight in. Evergreen trees offer continuous shade and can be beneficial in warmer climates; however, if you live in a colder climate, deciduous trees will provide shade in the summer and lose their leaves in the winter allowing more sunlight to hit the house and offer heat.
Using certain building materials will also help store heat. Concrete and bricks release stored heat slowly making them great options for building walls or flooring. Another way to passively cool your home is through air flow. Opening windows and doors to your home to allow air flow and a breeze cools the home and vents out stagnant air.
Passive heating can be essential in the winter to trap heat inside the house and keep cold winds out. An easy way to reduce the effect cool winds can have is planting a screen of shrubs to help stop winter winds. The shrubs will act as a windscreen but could also double as a source of shade in the summer. It is also important to make sure your home is well insulated and sealed properly. Windows and doors can allow drafts of cool air into the home. Before the cold season approaches, do a visual inspection of your doors, windows, and weather stripping to check for possible leaks that cold air could enter through. Additionally, in the winter the sun is lower and that will affect the amount of sunlight that enters your home. Keeping in mind how the sun heats your home at different times of the year will help you determine if you should use permanent or temporary shade cover.
If you are building a home or making home renovations, there are several ways to make your home more energy efficient. South facing windows allow the most sunlight to enter the home, while North facing windows have the weakest light. Roof overhangs and awnings reduce sunlight in the summer but do not impede sunlight in the winter when the sun is lower.
Concrete flooring helps trap heat and keeps the floors warmer in the winter. Using light colored roofing materials will also help reflect sunlight to keep the home cooler.
So whether you are building a home that you want to make as energy efficient as possible or looking for smaller ways to reduce your energy costs, consider making these changes to your home and the surrounding landscapes.