The future is not what it used to be.
In the 1990s, the push for electric vehicles gained momentum in response to national security concerns over our reliance on imported fuels and tailpipe emissions.
Solar energy is harnessed, converted and distributed using a range of ever-evolving technologies and strategies. Passive solar energy is characterized by building orientation, strategies that integrate the house with its climatic environment, and materials that have favorable thermal mass.
Although passive solar building principles are based on science and a variety of lessons learned through the years – they aren’t necessarily expensive. Passive solar construction costs can vary from no additional cost, to a little more than conventional construction to considerably more. Many forms of passive solar energy are economical because of the large savings of utility bills that can be achieved - typically in the 50 percent to 70 percent range.
Unlike “traditional” construction, it takes more thought to design with the sun’s location in mind; however, passive solar features such as additional south-facing windows, added thermal mass, larger roof overhangs, or other shading features can easily pay for themselves. In fact some modest passive solar designs like sun tempering, a design fit for cold climates, can reduce heating costs from 5 percent to 25 percent at no added cost to the construction budget.
Since passive solar designs require substantially less mechanical heating and cooling capacity, costs of the design can be offset by reduced unit size, and by reduced installation, operation, and maintenance costs. Overall, passive solar homes are often less expensive for the homeowner when the lower annual energy and maintenance costs are factored in over the life of the building.
If you are designing a new home, consider passive solar design as it is usually much more cost-effective to reduce energy use with passive solar design than it is to pay for that energy use with other forms of energy (including solar electricity).
For more information:
Passive Solar Case Study (by U.S. Department of Energy) – General Daylighting
Passive Solar Case Study (by Homes Across America Program) -- Harmony Home, Flagstaff, AZ (Cost -- $200 per square foot)
Passive Solar Case Study (by Homes Across America Program) – Hopi Nation Straw Bale House, Hotevilla, AZ (Cost -- $60 per square foot)
Passive Solar Case Study (by Homes Across America Program) – Southwest Solar, Prescott, AZ (Cost -- $175 per square foot)
Passive Solar Case Study (by Homes Across America Program) – The S.E.E.D. (The Super Energy Efficient Design) Home, Tucson, AZ (Cost -- $150 per square foot)