Orientation of a Home

Orientation of a Home

One aspect many homeowners fail to consider when orienting their house is passive solar energy. Usually everyone is very concerned about views, which is important, the last thing you want to see out of your living room windows is the town’s water storage tank, but many times you can take advantage of views and the suns warm rays. New Mexico is a unique state in that we can go from the heat of the desert up to the snow in the mountains within a few hours. If you happen to be in a place that is a little colder, passive solar energy is something you definitely want to consider.

Here is an unofficial definition of passive solar energy.

The collection of solar energy thorough properly oriented, south facing windows, the storage of this energy in “thermal mass” materials with high heat capacity such as concrete slabs, brick walls or tile floors.  The natural distribution of the stored solar energy back to the living space.

Sounds a little complicated, but this is basically what happens. The sun comes into the south facing windows, heats up not just the room but whatever thermal mass is in the room, like the concrete slab. The slab will store the energy, and at night when the sun goes down, the slab releases the heat back into the room. I know it sounds too simple and good to be true, but it works. I would not recommend it had I not had the opportunity to experience it myself.  I have a wall of south facing windows, in my home, regardless of what the temperature is outside, as long as the sun is shining the temperature of that room is 74 degrees plus, with no other heat source. With the use of ceiling fans I am able to distribute that heat to other parts of the house. Many people bring up the question about how to keep the house from becoming too hot in the summer. The beauty of this is that the sun changes paths in the summer and will not enter the room. See illustration below.solar_designYou could design your house to store more thermal energy by adding brick walls, adobe walls etc.; however, you don’t need to spend a penny more to take advantage of one our greatest natural resources. Sometimes all you have to do is turn your house on your lot by a few degrees.