Passive Solar 101 – What Colorado Builders Know

Solar energy is a very popular subject these days. Everyone from media pundits to stand-up comedians are talking about solar energy. When most people think about solar energy, they are thinking about solar panels, which produce electricity when the sun shines on them. These panels have become so ubiquitous that it seems like you cannot even turn on the TV or browse the Internet without seeing an ad for roof-mounted solar panels. ULFBUILT, a premier Vail, Colorado builder, can help you see the passive solar energy in a new light.


 

The Expanse of Photovoltaic Solar Power

In fact, the capacity for solar energy production in the United States has more than doubled in the last two years. Although this growth is expected to slow somewhat, it will likely continue to be significant for years to come. Perhaps the most important reason is the cost. The cost of installing solar panels has dropped by more than 60% over the last ten years.

Though the cost of installing solar power has dropped significantly, it is still a large investment. A typical home installation may cost $25,000-$30,000. Though there are many subsidies from utility companies, federal state and local governments, this price is still out of reach for many homeowners.

Another Type of Solar Power

Photovoltaic solar panels are great, but they are not right for everybody. There is another type of solar energy, and it has been used around the world for thousands of years. Passive solar design finds ways to use windows, walls and floors to collect and distribute solar energy in the form of heat. In the winter, these systems allow sunlight to warm the building. In the summer, passive solar design works to reduce the heat buildup inside our homes and businesses. There are many ways to include passive solar design:

  1. Extended Overhangs

    A design feature as simple as extended overhangs on south-facing windows allows the winter sun in while keeping summer sun out. The cost of including this feature on new construction is negligible. This design feature is also quite simple to add to an existing building.

  2. Increased Thermal Mass

    Another passive solar design practice is increasing the thermal mass of a building, typically by using brick, ceramic or stone building materials. These materials are resistant to changes in temperature. This means that in the summer it will take longer for the sun to heat up the building. In the winter, these materials radiate their stored heat, keeping the building warmer and more comfortable. This feature is easy to add to a new building, but difficult to retrofit.

  3. Solar Water Heater

    Most buildings use hot water all year round. Placing a storage tank on the roof where the sun can help heat the water inside is a simple and easy step to take. The cost of installing this technology in an existing building is slightly higher than a new installation, but it is not significantly so. Whether you are planning to build from the ground up or looking to retrofit an existing building, passive solar energy deserves your consideration. If you have any questions, we would love to talk to you. Contact ULFBUILT today to discuss your project.

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