Passive and Proud: Green Energy Ideas for Your Home

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Solar energy comes from the sun. A biology class will tell you that in addition to affecting climate and weather, sunlight provides the energy that sustains most life on earth. It also can be harnessed to provide heating, lighting and electricity. Solar power has become a hot topic lately, but this technology is nothing new Native Americans, people in China and even the early Greeks have historically turned their buildings to the sun for heat.

These early architects were using what is known as passive solar energy. This technique makes the best use of regular building materials to trap heat with no additional mechanical equipment used. Floors, windows and roofs play a role in attracting (or deflecting) the sun’s rays.

There are a number of ways to take advantage of solar radiation, starting with the house’s placement. Having the house face the equator (we’ll assume we’re in the Northern Hemisphere, thus the house should face south) means that it gets the day’s sunlight. Window orientation is also important for optimal efficiency, most windows should point within 30 degrees of due south. Maintaining a small percentage of north...

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