On the subject of solar heat, home heating systems that utilize this resource can come in many forms, but are generally grouped into two major categories; active and passive solar heat. Home owners who wish to convert their homes for using this constantly renewable resource of energy and those who wish to build a new home are recently becoming more interested in using the power of the sun due to the fact that this technology has taken great leaps in efficiency since its initial spurt of popularity back in the early-mid seventies. What are some of the ways in which we can apply this technology to our homes? Let’s go over these categories and learn a bit about the techniques used…
Fist off, let’s look at passive solar heating for homes, and how it’s generally done. While it used to be a good idea to have most windows facing the path of the sun in order to passively heat the home to some degree, now, with even more advanced window production (double and triple paned types, vacuum and/or special gas impregnated, etc.), this passive solar heating arrangement is quite super-charged. I’m generally speaking about nothing very special here – most “replacement windows” companies (if not all these days) construct their windows in such a fashion, for purposes of insulation and reaping the benefits of the sun. Just about any set of windows of this type is efficient enough to build a “passive solar house” using this technique.
This is actually so efficient now, that it’s best for your electricity bill to keep the curtains closed in the hotter parts of the summertime… you see, sunlight can light up a room enough even with the curtains closed, depending on the type of curtains – but if they’re wide open, you’ll definitely need to use your air-conditioner. The efficiency of windows these days makes them, in a very practical sense, heat lenses, and quite literally so. With the curtains closed (and perhaps the windows open a bit for circulation), even if you need a little extra artificial lighting, the rooms will stay cool enough to not need air-conditioning, which would cost more to use than an artificial light. Keep this well in mind for good energy conservation efficiency. A window opened up and a window shade pulled down to meet the opening should be enough shielding and circulation while letting in the light.
For active solar heating, homes using solar panels are much more efficient than they were decades ago. A solar home roof equipped with photovoltaic cells is not nearly as expensive as they used to be in days long past. It used to be that a few 2×5 foot panels installed on a roof would cost upwards of $12,000 or so, which would power most appliances, or perhaps all, in a small home. These days, many are building their own from cheaply procured components, a single of the above-mentioned panels costing less that one or two hundred dollars for the parts to build it with, and each of these panels, depending on the builder’s skill, can power an air-conditioner, home PC, and entertainment center all on just one.