Roughly half of all energy used in the home goes to heating and cooling, so taking steps to reduce heating and cooling needs can have a dramatic impact on your energy bill each month. While you can always heat your home more efficiently by switching to a more energy efficient fuel source, or more fuel-efficient equipment, one of the cheapest ways to save is to take advantage of natural heat from the sun to warm your home. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that homeowners who take advantage of passive heating techniques have heating bills 50 percent lower than the average homeowner. While true passive solar design starts before the house is built, almost any homeowner can take advantage of solar heating with these simple tips.
- Insulate first
Insulation and air sealing are always the most efficient methods of reducing heating costs, and will allow you to take full advantage of passive solar heating. Add insulation where needed, and use caulk, door and window seals, and other materials to fill any gaps in your home's exterior where air could leak in or out.
- Uncover south-facing windows
South-facing windows let the sun shine in, so remove shades and open curtains wide for maximum exposure during peak sun hours, generally from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you have trees or other vegetation blocking the sun around these windows, prune them back so the sun can freely enter your home.
- Use east and west-facing windows wisely
While south-facing windows are best for heat gain, east-facing windows can also allow plenty of heat into the home, so remove shades and make sure no vegetation blocks these openings during the day. If you live in a cooler climate zone, do the same for west-facing windows. Homeowners in warmer regions should avoid heat gain through west-facing windows, as they can allow too much heat inside in these areas.
- Keep heat in at night
Once you've allowed all that heat into your home, keep it in to warm your house through the night. Use thick curtains at each window, or install insulated roller shades on the interior or exterior of your windows.
- Maximize heat absorption
When you build a house with passive heat gain in mind, it's easy to choose materials that will absorb and hold onto solar heat. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't apply this principle to your home after it's built. Whenever possible, use concrete, masonry, tile or other materials that soak up heat, and avoid carpet and other textiles where you can. Focus on natural colors, which tend to hold onto heat better than those not found in nature. For assistance, talk to a professional like Weather Crafters Limited.