Green is big. No matter your political/scientific beliefs, you cannot deny the power the green movement has. Implementation of Green Technologies have an immediate impact on a universal expense: Utilities. This article s about saving you money, and building the value of your house. Currently, over one-third of all electricity usage goes to heat and cool our houses.
Solar power has been around forever… literally. It is an inexhaustible source of energy, and in all respects, it’s free. In fact, we already utilize solar energy to heat and cool our homes, cook our food, and power our vehicles. The fossil fuels we burn today are nothing more than stored solar energy that plants captured through photosynthesis. Over millions of years, heat and pressure transformed dead plants and animals into deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas.
Right now, solar house systems are available that reduce monthly energy bills 50 to 70 percent. There is also a current trend in building “Zero Energy Houses.” Utilizing this process, builders construct homes utilizing airtight envelopes, Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and of course a passive photovoltaic solar system. In Lenoir City, Tennessee, Habitat for Humanity volunteers constructed these modest sized homes (1,000-1,200 sq ft.) homes for around $100,000 each. Each of the homes in the neighborhood dubbed ‘Harmony Heights,’ each energy bill averages less than $25 per month.
When building a new house, consider the following tips from Mother Earth News:
Solar design for Cold Climates:
1. Choose a building site with no obstructions to the south for complete access to the low angle of the winter sun. Another plus is a site with trees that can block prevailing winter winds, which are usually from the north.
2. Choose a design with a long south wall facing within 15 degrees of true south.
3. The house should include ample thermal mass (dense, heat-storing materials such as concrete or earthen floors). Consider building an earth berm on the north side for more thermal mass.
4. Most of the windows should face to the south for access to the winter sun. Place a minimal amount of window area on the east and west sides, and place very few windows in north walls.
5. Use shorter overhangs over south windows for better winter heat gain and ample overhangs over other windows for shading.
6. Cover windows and glass doors at night with insulating shutters or insulated drapes to prevent heat loss.
7. Maximize insulation in walls and ceiling. Use rigid insulation under the floor and around its edges.
8. Consider using a dark roof surface to pick up maximum solar gain in winter.
9. Mechanical ventilation will probably be needed in winter; a heat recovery ventilator, which preheats incoming air, is a good option.
10. Consider a porch or plantings to the west to block afternoon sun in summer.
Solar Design for Warmer Climates
1. Look for a site where the house can be positioned with plenty of outdoor living space to the north. Another plus is a site with trees to the east and west to block morning and afternoon sun.
2. The house should be compact in shape, with less wall area exposed to the sun. Build shaded porches and patios.
3. Focus on creating outdoor living spaces to the north and east for cooking, sleeping and relaxing. Comfortable shaded verandas are inexpensive additions that make a house feel luxurious.
4. Take advantage of the cooling effects of vegetation by planning for plenty of trees, vines and garden space. Established shade trees are an invaluable resource -protect them!
5. Maximize insulation in the walls and in the ceiling.
6. For the roof, use a radiant barrier and reflective metal or light-colored roof tile and create air space between the roof surface and the sheathing.
7. If some winter heating is required, thermal mass, such as a concrete floor, and windows to the south can be used.
8. If using south-facing thermal mass for winter heating, use deciduous trees or a vine-covered arbor to shade it in summer.
9. In arid climates, use thick walls as a buffer against the sun. Minimize windows to increase this effect.
10. In hot, humid climates with no winter, don’t worry about thermal mass. Lift the building off the ground over open crawl space to encourage airflow. Maximize window and door openings on all sides.