Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brrr, Cold! -6 F Outside But Passive Solar Home Heats to +85 F!


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I didn't have to wait long for the temperature to drop below zero outside, record cold this December! So I took pictures of the sunroom's thermometer and pictures of the exterior to show how a true passive solar home operates in severe cold.


Seeing is believing! As you can see, the outside is cold and white, everything covered with snow. As is usual when it is below zero, there is no cloud cover. This is because it can't get below zero easily on cloudy days, here near the Atlantic Ocean. For the heat sink of the sea counter acts the cold air and warms us up slightly. So all really cold days are clear as a ringing bell.


The pictures are no exaggeration, the sky to the north is a deep blue, the humidity is very low, any moisture in the air is frozen and falls even if there is no clouds, we have a very fine light frost that can be seen only as it sparkles here and there in the brilliant sunlight.

The thermometer above is in this sunroom which is off our bedroom. Our bedroom has two sliding glass doors leading into the narrow sunroom. If the sunroom is too wide, it won't heat up very fast. Ours reached 85+ F in less than three hours! The sun rose above the opposite mountain ridge at 8:40 am and by 12, it was roaring hot inside and the outside temperture only climbed to 12 degrees. When I went outside, I only wore a very light jacket over my clothes because the snow reflects back the sunlight and it is amazingly warm, in the sun. There is no wind, of course. Wind makes a big difference.

Windy, cold days with no sun force us to heat the house in conventional ways.

Most of my windows on the lower level outer shell are scavanged. Over the years, as I get better windows, I replace the free windows. But anyone can erect a passive solar shell on their homes if they have a porch facing south or can put up a deck and then glass it in. But the key is always, little floor space! Otherwise, it won't heat up fast enough. My sun room buffers are around 5' deep but run 20+' in length.

I believe every house in the north in America should have this system. This shouldn't be optional, it should be required! There is no excuse to not have such a system. It is insane to not have it. I am predicting that in 50 years, all homes will have this installed, one way or another.

Or we can move into caves and igloos.

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