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Can a windbreak be planted on the south side of a home with a passive solar design?

My family recently moved into a home with a passive solar design in a winter climate. We love the way it is performing. However, we have strong and persistent wind from the south/southwest for most of the winter. I would love to plant a windbreak to reduce wind (and snow drifts), but don't want to block our solar gain. Recommended distance for trees maturing at 50 feet high is 150-200 feet from the house. Any thoughts on whether or not this would block our winter sun? Thx!

Asked by lisa miller
Posted Thu, 12/26/2013 - 12:48


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My first guess is that trees planted close enough to the house to be an effective wind break would block some winter solar gain, since the sun crosses low in the sky at that time. No one can really answer your question, since you didn't give your location.

There's various ways to determine sun shading, including buying or having someone else use a Solar Pathfinder gizmo. The easiest, reliable and cheap (free) method for me has been just to simulate it by downloading Sketchup drawing software for free. It's easy to learn. You just draw a simple 3D representation of your house, placed at the correct geographical location, and orient it facing in the correct NSEW directions, as best as you can. Then you draw some simple planar shapes (even rectangular or circular) to represent trees or other solar blockers. You turn on the solar shadow feature in Sketchup and you can simulate sun shadows any time of day or year. Lowest sun will be Dec. 21. The Sketchup shadows seem to be pretty accurate to me, if you use a geographic location that is close to you and orient the objects in the right directions. If you draw simple representations of any existing structures outside of your house, you can even go outside and check the real shadows against what Sketchup is showing you. One example is to draw your roof overhangs and check the Sketchup shadows against what you actually see on any given day and time of year.

OK, maybe this sounds involved to you, but with a little effort it really is one of the easiest, reliable and cheapest ways to predict sun shadows.

Answered by Sonny Chatum
Posted Fri, 12/27/2013 - 06:30

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