Can your home be greener?

Solar power can be a great contribution to the heating requirements of a building. Depending on the local weather and the predominant need for a house or building to be heated or cooled, there are wide range passive techniques. The aim is to rehabilitate the buildings to be energy efficient and offer high standards of comfort. The buildings that attempt to cover their energy needs using appropriate and constructive arrangements average insolation are called "passive solar buildings".

Passive solar design takes advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimize energy use. A passive solar home collects heat as the sun shines through south-facing windows and retains it in materials that store heat, known as thermal mass.

According to PSU architecture professor Jeff Schnabel the price of a truly green home is not prohibitive for most Oregon families. “The payback period on the technologies employed is short. There might be an extra investment up front, but families would get that money back very quickly over the life of the house, in the form of heating and energy savings.” By spending 10 percent more during construction, the need for 80-90% of the heating energy can be eliminated compared to conventional structures.

You can apply passive solar design techniques most easily to new buildings. However, existing buildings can be adapted or "retrofitted" to passively collect and store solar heat. In some ways, every home is a passive solar home because it has windows. Before you add solar features to your new home design or existing house, remember that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing heating and cooling bills. The first step is to have a home energy audit to prioritize the most cost-effective energy efficiency improvements.

To learn more about passive solar design visit the Passive House Institute. For additional information and practical steps you can take to help naturalize your environment, visit