Solar Energy Home Designs - Design Considerations for New Homes

Everyone wants a comfortable home. But comfort comes at a great cost when it takes large amounts of energy to heat and cool the indoor environment. If you're building a new home, or renovating an existing one, consider these tips on solar energy home designs to keep you cozy inside.

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South-Facing Windows

This is an easy solution for capturing solar energy in order to heat the indoor air. In the winter, sunlight will stream into the home and heat the indoor space with radiant energy. By extending the roof line above the south wall (i.e. let it stick out further from the wall), as the hot summer sun rides high in the sky, its rays will be blocked from entering the interior, thus preventing the room from overheating.

Building Materials

Construction materials can affect the amount of solar energy that is utilized in a home. For example, in Florida and other hot locations, concrete walls can store daytime heat and release it later at night. In the northern climates, walls made out of wood act as good insulator and painting them a dark color will also allow them to trap as much solar heat as well.

Hot Water Panels

With the use of pumps and large roof-mounted solar collectors, an ethylene glycol solution can be pumped through the system to gather the heat from the sun. Temperature sensors automatically direct the hot water to a heat exchanger where it's used to raise the temperature of potable water for human consumption or to use for solar home heating purposes.

Consider the following before installing hot water panels:

  • The roof must be able to support the extra weight.

  • The panels must be positioned at the correct angle to the sun to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. This angle depends on latitude.

  • Water should not be run through the collector as it can freeze and burst the pipes. The ethylene glycol mixture should be rated well below the lowest possible temperature for the climate.

  • The panel connectors must be weatherproof as they be subjected to the full force of the weather.

  • A backup energy source is required just in case the skies are cloudy for a few days in a row.

  • The solar collectors must be of a large size so their energy output is more than the energy input required to run the pumps, sensors and heat exchangers.

Solar Cells

Solar panels are expensive investments that will last for 20 30 years and can help cut greenhouse emissions. For a household to become energy self-sufficient, homeowners should consider:

  • The minimum amount of energy required for your lifestyle.
  • The minimum and maximum amount of sunlight received in your climate.
  • The size of an obstacle-free area available for installation of your solar-powered system.

Solar energy home designs can be as complicated or as simple as you like. Many books are available to help with designing a home that best utilizes solar power. It's easier to incorporate solar power into a new design but with extra time, effort, and of course money, it can also be integrated into an existing residence.