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Passive Solar Heating

The quintessential essence of renewable is getting something for nothing! The best, and probably cheapest, example of this is ‘solar gain’. Have you noticed that if you leave something in the sun it gets hot (and the darker it is the quicker and hotter it gets but more on the physics later)? On an early summer evening it’s lovely to sit with your back against a south-facing wall that has been warmed by the sun.

You can use this principle to heat your home for free. Build a conservatory and trap the heat in it like you do with a greenhouse (slightly different from the greenhouse effect but let’s not confuse things). The sun comes through the glass and is absorbed by the surrounding walls. This is using the physics of radiant heat and thermal mass. Because there is little convection or air currents and very low heat conduction the thicker or denser the wall the longer it takes to heat up but the more heat it can hold. Old stone cottages with thick solid walls are warm during winter and cool during summer for that very reason. If you really want to get into the physics you design the back wall as a black body absorber (i.e. paint it black to increase the absorption and reduce the emissivity) and paint the walls facing it white to reflect any lost heat back at the absorbing wall. You’d also have special glass that transmitted light one way but reduced reflection the other. The glass is easy but black walled conservatories aren’t very attractive so maybe you forgo that bit. Then ideally, like us, you have stable door style entrance. During the day open the top half so the warm air spills out of the conservatory into the house for later.

You can get very technical with designing the angle of the glass, the direction of the building, sophisticated blind systems, etc. so talk to us. However, in essence just build a nice conservatory and make it a feature of the house.

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