Passive Solar Heating

Passive solar heating is an inexpensive way to heat your home. When combined properly, the strategy of passive heating can contribute to heating, cooling, and day lighting of any building. The kinds of buildings that can benefit from passive heating include barracks to large maintenance buildings. Passive solar design also involves active and informed occupants who remember to open and close doors and windows and isolate zone spaces. Passive heating typically involves the following:

• The collection of energy through properly oriented south facing windows

• The storage of this energy in large thermal mass which comprises building materials, with high heat capacity such as concrete slabs, brick walls or tile floors

• The natural distribution of the stored energy into the living space through mechanism like convection and radiation

Unlike many other solar heating mechanisms passive solar heating do not have a high initial cost or long-term payback period. On the contrary, increased user comfort is one of the most common features of passive solar heating. It has been noticed that if properly designed, passive solar buildings can be sunny and bright and in sync with the climate and nature. Hence, the instances of temperature fluctuation is almost negligible thereby producing a comfortable environment for the inmates throughout the year. Another great advantage associated with passive solar heating is that they do not generate any greenhouse gas and hence slows down the depletion of fossil fuels.

The basic principle behind passive solar heating is the greenhouse principle. It relies on this principle to trap solar energy. The heat is gained when short wave radiation passes through glass when it is absorbed by building elements and furnishings and then it is re-radiated as long wave radiation. Here it needs to be noted that long wave radiation cannot pass through glass as easily.

However, there are some basic elements that has to work together in order to make passive solar design a success. They are the following:

Properly oriented windows: Windows or any other device that collect solar energy should face within 30 degrees of true south and must not be shaded during the heating season by objects like buildings or trees from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. While during the spring, fall and the cooling season the windows has to be shaded to avoid overheating.

Thermal mass: There should be a thermal mass like concrete, brick or tile to store heat. The advantage of such thermal mass is that they absorb heat from the sunlight during the heating season while during the cooling season they absorb heat from the warm air in the house.

Distribution mechanisms: Solar heat is transferred from the place from where it is stored through various mechanisms like conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction takes place when heat exchange takes place when two surfaces are in contact. In convection heat transfer happens through fluids like air and water and Radiation is the feeling that you get when you stand near a warm stove.

Control Strategies: Proper control strategies are important to make passive solar heating operate efficiently. For example, properly sized roof overhangs can provide vertical shade to south windows during the summer months. Other control strategies include electronic sensing device, operable vents and dampers, low-emissivity blinds, operable insulating shutters and awnings.

Last but not the least, proper usage of passive solar heating can give you comfort throughout the year.


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