With the weather heating up and the sun out, it has got me thinking about passive solar energy use and the many benefits it has to offer. Passive solar homes are houses that receive at least part of its heating, cooling and lighting energy from the sun. Passive solar design takes advantage of a buildings site, climate and materials to minimise energy use.

Before you add solar features to your home, whether it be brand new or an existing structure, remember that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing heating and cooling bills. Although the initial upfront costs may seem higher in scale to ordinary materials, remember the ongoing costs of solar energy is far more cost effective in the long run, which not only benefits your bank accounts but also the environment.

If you are working on an existing structure, the first step is to have a home energy audit to prioritize the most cost effective energy efficiency improvement. I would highly recommend you consult and work with professionals who have experience in energy-efficient house design and construction to optimise you homes energy efficiency, both for brand new homes and redesign on existing structures.

You are probably wondering how it works. In simple terms, a passive solar home is able to collect heat from the sun that shines through north-facing windows and retains it in materials that store heat, known as thermal mass. The amount of energy that can be stored is dependent on the amount of thermal mass your home contains, which is why I stress the importance of seeking professional advice before beginning the project. 

To implement an effective design, there are a few things you will need to make sure you have. Firstly, ensure you have properly oriented windows to absorb heat. If windows are not situated correctly then the design will not work at all.

Secondly, implement thermal mass materials; typically brick, stone or tile, to absorb the heat from sunlight, which can then be distributed amongst the home.

Next, ensure you have implemented some distribution mechanisms – such as fans to move heat around the home or convections type devices which can transfer energy by liquid or heat.

And finally, control strategies. Consider roof overhangs on you Solar Passive windows to block out heat in the warmer months, and not affect heat absorption in the cooler months. Another good control strategy is awnings which can be appropriated per season to benefit your homes passive solar energy design.

So if you are building a new home or renovating, I suggest you take a moment to consider how you plan to climate control your home. Going back to basics may be the most effective energy source for you.