Extreme Home Makeover, Solar Edition: Designing Your Green Dream House

With the increasing interest in green energy, a.k.a. renewable energy, you may be wondering what effect it would have not only on the appearance of your home, but on its structure and design as well. Of course, it is much easier to build a home from the ground up that is designed for this type of energy than it is to redecorate and renovate structures that are already standing. Good architects can now even design homes that capture solar energy in the winter to heat the house and reject it in the summer, when heat is not needed. This type of home design is known as a passive solar design because these types of panels do not use electricity. Instead, they utilize the environmental climate to produce and contain heat. One example is usually manipulating the positioning of the windows to allow as much sunlight into the house as possible. Another is to make the wall, floors, and windows absorb heat. <!--more-->



Another method of building design is to use active solar heating. Unlike passive solar heating, which only utilizes the climate the house is built in to provide heat, active solar heating can use either liquid or air and stores the energy. The heat is then distributed throughout the house as necessary or desired via electrical or mechanical devices. Active solar heating systems carry further benefits in that they can heat the water during the summer when insulation is not necessary. Thus it provides a way for producing hot water without electricity.

Of course, people don’t always have the luxury of building brand new homes. To add in an active heating water system, you can replace or modify the water system currently in place. This can still be both costly and time-consuming. So what exactly should you do do if you already have a house but want it to be more environmentally friendly? For a start, you can install the photovoltaic solar panels on your roof without even needing to mess around with the internal design and structure of the house, with the exception of getting the solar panels wired into the electrical system. After all, it is much easier to wire into the electrical system currently in place than it is to completely rebuild both the water and electrical system from the ground up. Also, a battery pack will be necessary since the sun does not shine during the night. The solar panels can then charge the batteries during the day and power the house. Then, during the night, when the sun goes down, the house can power its electrical system off of the batteries. While not as beneficial as the active solar heating system, it is much easier to install and does not require costly renovations.