How to Find the Best Solar House Plans

If you're interested in buying solar house plans, there are some essential things you should know about solar houses.

The Two Types of Solar House Plans

#1: Passive Solar. Passive solar refers simply to trapping the energy from the sun, utilizing house design techniques. When designing passive solar home plans, the designer will carefully calculate the amount of windows with walls in the southern-facing section of the home. (This is where the solar energy will be the greatest.) A passive solar home plan will depend on the location of the home...whether that's in a predominantly cool area (such as the northeast section of the U.S.) or predominantly hot area (such as the southwest section of the U.S.). For the hotter areas of the country, designers will use elements such as properly sized window overhangs to block the summer sun and prevent the home from overheating. Even in hotter areas, during the winter, the sun should be allowed to still enter the windows and warm the home's interior. Windows are typically minimal on the north, east, and west sides of the house, which minimizes heat loss during cold weather and also minimizes heat gain during the hot weather. Learn more about passive solar home plans here.

#2: "Active" Solar. Compared to passive solar, an active solar home still traps the sun's energy, but it takes it one step further. An active solar home also collects, stores, and/or distributes that energy to maximize its benefit. Solar equipment can convert solar energy into electricity for heating, cooling, and lighting. The most common type of active solar equipment in use is a solar hot water heater. As prices for solar equipment continue to become more affordable, many homeowners are also investing in solar panels or other types of solar energy collecting equipment.

Both types of solar homes utilize "thermal mass" principles. Thermal mass is the material that holds the solar energy, then slowly releases it. Ideally, solar house plans should incorporate both passive and active solar features, as well as building materials that maximize thermal mass. The best thermal mass material, hands down, is concrete. That's why we're such big fans of concrete construction, specifically ICF (insulating concrete forms). Note that most designers only incorporate passive solar principles (if you desire). For active solar, you need to work with a local installer for pricing and installation.

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