Passive Solar Design

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The Revolution in Window Performance — Part 1

Early gains in window energy performance were made by adding additional layers of glass and deepening the air space

Posted on Mar 22 2012 by Alex Wilson

I've been working for the past couple weeks on a report on windows — the latest in BuildingGreen's series of special reports on green building (the last one covering insulation). This focus has reminded me just how much we expect of our windows and what an amazing job they do.


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Image Credits:

  1. Marvin Windows
  2. Randi Ernst
  3. Alex Wilson

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A Superinsulated House in Rural Minnesota

A tight building envelope and plenty of insulation mean low energy bills — even for a home with electric resistance heat

Posted on Mar 16 2012 by Martin Holladay

Electric resistance heating systems have a bad reputation. While the required equipment is cheap (and sometimes cheap-looking), homes with electric heat are known for their high fuel bills.


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Image Credits:

  1. Mark Teskey
  2. Rachel Wagner

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In Maine, a Builder’s Vision of Green

A recently completed house near Portland sets builder Jason Peacock’s standard for a cluster of homes that will be built nearby

Posted on Feb 14 2012 by Richard Defendorf

Jason Peacock wants to build houses that impart the benefits of green building to the people who occupy them, and he took a major step in that quest last fall with the completion of a 950-sq.-ft. two-bedroom in Wiscasset, Maine, a village on the Sheepscot River, northeast of Portland.

Peacock is a LEED Accredited Professional, and the house, which he hopes will be the first of at least four he wants to build on 36 wooded acres he owns in Wiscasset, includes a photovoltaic system and design, materials, and construction intended to conform to LEED for Homes Platinum criteria.


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Image Credits:

  1. All images: Samuel Strickland for Platinum Green Inc.

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Resilient Design: Passive Solar Heat

Passive solar design is a key element of creating resilient homes

Posted on Jan 12 2012 by Alex Wilson

As I discussed in last week's blog, a resilient home is extremely well insulated, so that it can be kept warm with very little supplemental heat — and if power or heating fuel is lost, for some reason, there won't be risk of homeowners getting dangerously cold or their pipes freezing. If we design and orient the house in such a way that natural heating from the sun can occur, we add to that resilience and further reduce the risk of the house getting too cold in the winter.

Passive solar heating


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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How to Install Tile Over Concrete

An uncoupling membrane can prevent cracks in a slab from affecting tile or grout

Posted on Dec 12 2011 by Scott Gibson

Tile can contribute thermal massHeavy, high-heat-capacity material that can absorb and store a significant amount of heat; used in passive solar heating to keep the house warm at night. to a passive solar house, and to Christa Campbell it would make a more appealing finish floor than concrete.

Although tile can be placed directly over a concrete slab, products such as Schluter’s Ditra are designed to separate, or “uncouple,” the tile from any potential movement in the substrate and protect the tile and grout from cracking.

The question for Campbell is whether using Ditra offsets some of the thermal mass gains in a passive-solar design.


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Solar Versus Superinsulation: A 30-Year-Old Debate

A dispute from the late ’70s and early ’80s still sheds light on energy-efficient design

Posted on Oct 8 2010 by Martin Holladay

The oil price shock of 1973 sparked a burst of interest in “solar houses.” During the 1970s, owner-builders all over the U.S. erected homes with extensive south-facing glazingWhen referring to windows or doors, the transparent or translucent layer that transmits light. High-performance glazing may include multiple layers of glass or plastic, low-e coatings, and low-conductivity gas fill. — sometimes sloped, sometimes vertical. Many of these houses included added thermal massHeavy, high-heat-capacity material that can absorb and store a significant amount of heat; used in passive solar heating to keep the house warm at night. — concrete floors, concrete-block walls, or 55-gallon drums filled with water.


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Image Credits:

  1. At Home In the Sun, Garden Way Publishing
  2. Sun/Earth Buffering and Superinsulation, Community Builders

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