Passive Solar Heating & Cooling ~ Part I

design Nov 01, 2018

“Form follows function — that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” 

~ Frank Lloyd Wright 

The following is an excerpt from Twisted Oak: A Journey to Create a Self-Sustaining Life and Home 
by Kristina Munroe

Designing Twisted Oak to coexist with the native and wild land was imperative. Our home needed to work within the influential cycles of the seasons and leave as minuscule a footprint as possible on the world. 

In fact, I wanted to believe that not only this home but every building has the capacity to make a contribution to the Earth rather than deplete our natural resources and destroy the environment. 

Most people think of vehicles and industry as the most prevalent polluters, but our homes and buildings are significant consumers of energy and materials that cause greenhouse gasses. 

The first consideration for my design began months ago as I hung out with my dog at the building site. 

The direction of the prevailing breezes became apparent, and I noted the location on the horizon in which the sun rose and where it set. 

With Dad’s knowledge of the property, we estimated the sun would rise behind the piñon tree in the summer. I imagined summer sunlight filtering through her branches outside my bedroom. 

The tree would fend off hot summer sun for a couple of extra hours and reduce the heat in the house during those months. It was also apparent that as the rising sun moved south during the winter months, its warming rays would miss the piñon and begin heating the house soon after sunrise. 

Arranging Twisted Oak on the site, I placed the longest side facing due south. This southern-facing wall, abundant with windows, would collect as much sun and light as possible. Essentially, this glazing became the home’s heating system. 

The key element of designing a sustainable home is harnessing the power of nature. Passive solar heating and cooling is essential in self-sustaining homes. 

The heating system simply invites the heat from the sun in during the winter months, and cooling the home is as easy as asking the sun to stay and play outside during the hot summer months. 

This simple system works because the sun comes deep into the house during the winter when the sun is low in the sky. In the summer, the sun climbs higher in the sky, and the southern windows become shaded by the roof overhang or eave, keeping the heat outside. 

Stay tuned for future blogs on the additional critical elements of passive heating and cooling including placement and type of window, thermal mass, and insulation.



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