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re: building a passive solar house - how?
12 dec 2001
mrduck  wrote:

>we would like to raze the old house and build a new one... one
>"problem" is that the front of the house faces south towards the road,
>there's not much to look at... and the garage will still need to be
>in front of the house... so the garage will block a fairly large
>"frontal area" of the house, which i was planning on having windows
>set to face the winter sun (large overhang to block the summer sun),
>and shine on a trombe wall and/or a tile/stone floor.

trombe walls are extraordinarily inefficient. direct gain sucks too.

>the only thing i can think of is to maybe take down the old garage
>and build a new garage as the first floor of the house and build up
>(a 3 story house?).

sounds like a great idea, with lots of glass on the south garage wall.
this would also work with the garage to the south of the house, both
on grade level. do you have enough room for cars the enter the garage
from the east or west sides?

>but i'd lose the ability to use the floor as a collector of energy.

floors in the sun gain solar heat well, but they lose it well too, and
the upper temp is limited by human comfort, which limits their heat
storage capacity. there are more efficient and less expensive ways to
store solar heat, eg a concentrating solar attic with a transparent steep
south roof and a shallow trough along the floor under the reflective
parabolic north wall. it isn't hard to make parabolic rafters. just
cut some identical saw kerfs along one edge, more near the focus and
fewer near the straighter ends, in predetermined positions.

>...a nice, scenic lake is to the north of the house and it would be nice
>to have nice large windows facing in that direction. but with basic
>passive solar energy theory, you don't want to have hardly any windows
>on the north side of a house. 

you might consider a less-passive house, more like an america's cup boat
than a barge.

>i was maybe wondering if i could get around that by having "double"
>windows on the north side, like having an inside window with an
>airspace x number of inches thick to an outside window (even with 
>double or triple pane). 

more panes would help (6 or 7? :-), unlike more airspace... you might
have just a few windows on the inside insulated wall, looking into
a large screened porch for summertime use. 

> there something simpler that can be done to have windows with great
>views on the northside of a house without being such a great heat loss.

fill them with soap bubbles at night? put some heliostats in the back yard? 


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