Passive Solar Heating & Cooling ~ Part III

design Nov 01, 2018

In the following excerpt, I continue to explain how I designed the interior of our passive solar, self-sustaining home. This layout fit my family’s lifestyle, but it is only one of many possibilities. Every home is unique to the climate and the land it’s built on, and to the person or family who creates it.

It is more important to understand the method of thinking through how to work with nature and the power of the sun to design a home that will heat and cool itself, potentially collect water, and utilize greywater as a resource rather than waste. 

Whether we live on the grid or off-grid, using the power of the sun to heat and cool could reduce our consumption of fossil fuels used by our homes by 80%-100%. 

Of course, it is most effective in areas like the Southwest where we have abundant sunshine year around. But, I incorporated just one glass door on the south side of my kitchen when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, and it transformed the light in the house as well as cut down on our heating requirements. 

Passive Solar Design is a simple, low-tech design principle that has the power to transform our planet — but we have to be aware of it, understand it, and incorporate it into the new homes we build.

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

The interior layout of the house could then come together within the now defined shell. 

The main living space needed to be open and spacious, and it deserved at least half of the square footage of the home. Our family had never spent a lot of time in our bedrooms. We preferred cooking, chatting, and working on projects at the kitchen table. 

The family table had always been the seat of activity, and this was an essential part of our life. 

Since we homeschooled and were a close-knit little family, it felt even more important to make the family space warm, inviting, and comfortable. 

Laying out this space as a great room with the kitchen at one end, I placed a family-sized table at the center point, a natural place for it. 

The living space would be open to the kitchen. 

This arrangement would create a rustic room that could transform into a movie theater on Friday evenings. 

We could continue our custom of making homemade pizza and watching a DVD movie at the end of the school week, and it would be comforting to know the food would stay at the kitchen table. We could still enjoy the film without spilling food in the living room. After movie night or any screen time, the tv could disappear back into its cabinet. 

Living without network television for many years, I had never been motivated to buy cable service, so it was not difficult to leave the tv truly off-grid and out of sight most of the time. 

Before the move to Colorado, I had decided which pieces of furniture to keep for the new house. Knowing construction always costs more than expected, I didn’t want to be forced to spend money on furniture if I could incorporate what I already owned. 

Measuring each piece and drawing them to scale in the computer ensured the new spaces would accommodate the items moved from the house in Washington. This effort paid off as I began whittling down the square footage to coax the house into an affordable size. 

Arranging the computer drawn couches, video cabinet, and other furnishings in the living room made it easier to adjust the walls around them. I did the same for the bedrooms. 

Stay Tuned for the Part IV in which I will explain designing the bedrooms, a single bathroom for a family, choosing efficient appliances and designing a jungle in the house using greywater. 


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