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Passive solar - novice questions

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Posted by bubbabubbs on December 20, 2005, 10:58 pm
We're in the market for a house (in the Denver metro area), and have
just been shown a passive solar house. We have absolutely no experience
with passive solar, but are by no means ruling it out. Actually, it
sounds pretty appealing considering the possible energy bill savings.

Case in point, the house we've been shown is a:

-  4-bedroom ranch facing south (great room, kitchen/breakfast nook,
master suite are along the long south-facing side),
- there's a little 3-ft-wide sun "room/compartment/buffer zone"
(not sure about the terminology here :) 'fronting' the great room;
it has floor-to-ceiling glass. Then, there are two _fairly small_
windows between that and the great room, plus a door that you can open
to let the warm air in from the sun room to the house.
- the other 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and mud room are along the north and
west sides. No windows on the north side.
- the attached garage is by the east side of the house.

Pretty much a typical passive solar design.

I've done some reading about passive solar and one thing I've
learned is that how good a particular passive solar house is depends on
the quality of the design, quality of materials used, and maybe some
other things, too. But, being no expert, and w/o having to live in the
house for a full year, how do I decide how energy efficient the house

Some other questions/concerns:
-    How do I know if the house won't be overheating in summer, and if
that can't be controlled with the swamp cooler that the house has?
-    As I mentioned, no windows on the North side, which is what you'd
expect with passive solar. But the house has a pretty decent backyard
with a patio, and it backs out to open space with mountain views. So
I'm not sure how we'd feel about not being able to look out the
window into the backyard... I guess we'd have to find out, and if we
don't like it, add a (small) window in the back :)

We'll appreciate any helpful feedback.


Posted by nicksanspam on December 21, 2005, 8:59 pm

This may be a "sunspace." Is it 3' deep and the width of the great room?

Sounds good, esp if the sunspace has very little thermal mass. You might
improve performance by covering a masonry floor with a dark carpet and
a masonry wall with a dark curtain.

Ask for fuel bills. Do some calculations.

Check for an overhang to shade the south glass from high summer sun,
and sunspace venting to the outdoors, and maybe an outdoor curtain.


Posted by bubbabubbs on December 21, 2005, 10:41 pm
I forgot to mention: my agent found some info about the energy bills
(lowest gas bill: $0/mo, lowest electric: $3/mo, ave gas+electric:
$06/mo). Problem is, it looks like no one has lived in the house at
least for the past few months, so these figures might be artificially

Another thing: The hose has a backup PROPANE heating system. How good
is propane heating compared to 'regular' natural gas (methane?) Pros
and cons?

Posted by Derek Broughton on December 22, 2005, 1:36 pm
 bubbabubbs@yahoo.com wrote:

It works just the same (but it's more expensive), burners can usually just
be rejetted to switch from one to the other.  Usually homes only use
propane if they can't _get_ natural gas, though if it's a true backup, and
is rarely used, perhaps propane works out cheaper than having a minimum NG
monthly bill.

Posted by Jesse Spencer on December 27, 2005, 7:45 am

Check electric bills and fuel bills provided by the utility companies
involved for extended period. Honest seller will allow access to this info.

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