Tuesday, 01 December 2015 06:33

Sustainable Solar

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Sustainable Solar

Sustainable homes are the way of the future, and passive solar design is one of the most important elements when it comes to creating an effectively insulated home that maintains a constant temperature year-round. Grace Dobell looks at the specific passive solar principles that will enhance your home, and make it cost-effective in the long-term.

Passive solar design uses the sun’s energy to store heat and keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer. Anna Wright, one of the founding directors of Right Homes, explains the ease and importance of incorporating passive solar principles into new homes.


Incorporating passive solar design principles at the planning stage is the best way to minimise the cost to the building design.

“A sustainable home is not a difficult concept to [integrate] by adopting a few key elements of solar passive design (being orientation, insulation, thermal mass and ventilation),” Wright explains.

“We can achieve some great results at little or no extra cost, especially at the design stage, potentially saving hundreds of dollars by reducing our overall energy costs to heat and cool our homes.

“It is possible for Perth homes to operate with room temperatures between 18 degrees Celsius and 28 degrees Celsius all year round without artificial heating or cooling required if you have a solar passive home,” she says.

Building a sustainable home will ensure lower energy costs in the long-term and cheaper energy bills for the lifetime of your home.

“Right Homes [believes] it is important to ‘future proof’ every home,” Wright says.

“Living in an extremely energy-efficient home also protects you from the burden of large household bills, in the instance that your income varies down the track,” she says.

Anna Wright recommends considering passive solar principles at the very start of the planning stage.

“In our experience, we have had some clients come to us with an existing block wanting to build a house.

“We look at the orientation of the block and together work through their budget and design a home that will work correctly for that block,” she says.


The most important aspect when positioning and designing your home is ensuring the best orientation of rooms and location of windows that will allow for natural heating and cooling.

“The main living areas should be oriented north to maximise winter sun and minimise summer sun, and bedrooms – where possible – should be situated on the south side of the home so they can be naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter,” Wright says.

Overhanging eaves that are designed to shade the house from the sun in summer and allow winter sun to penetrate can also be calculated at angles that are specific to Perth’s latitude and climate.


Thermal mass works by using materials that absorb and store the warmth of the sun, releasing it at night when it’s cool. Materials that have a high thermal mass, such as brick or tiled floors, can be used to regulate the temperature of the home.

Looking specifically at the Perth climate, natural heating and cooling can be achieved through clever design.

“In Perth we are in the fortunate position of having a climate that allows us to construct homes that can be heated and cooled naturally,” Wright explains.

“A commonly used construction format is to use brick both internally and externally and have tiled or concrete floors. The thermal mass of these products enables us to regulate variance in temperatures and avoid big swings,” she says.


Proper insulation will keep the temperature of the house constant for longer, reducing large fluctuations during the day and night. Glazing on windows and doors, as well as quality ceiling insulation and cavity wall insulation, will also help achieve optimal insulation.

“Ideally with glazing, the windows on the north side of the home would benefit from being larger and the south smaller, with east and west having [few] or no windows,” Wright says.

If standard glass is used, energy can escape from inside the home into the elements.

“If we use standard glass, whilst not insulated, [it] will be the most cost-effective and a client can place a heavy curtain with pelmet above the window to at least gain some protection from the sun’s energy entering or escaping from the home.

“[These solutions] can help maintain a constant temperature in your home through summer and winter and further reduce heat entering the home – as well as energy escaping the home – saving you further on energy costs,” she says.


Effective ventilation of a home can be achieved through window placement, with ceiling fans an affordable option.

“Cross-flow ventilation is important, and by placing larger windows on the north and smaller windows on the southern side of the home, [you can] create a natural breeze through the home to keep the home cool in summer,” Wright says.

“In recent years there have been new technologies becoming available assisting in providing mechanical ventilation at a fraction of the cost of, say, an air-conditioner,” she explains.

All of these principles can be incorporated into any design, but it can help to seek out a building company that advertises its credentials in green home design.

Passive solar design is an affordable and efficient way to incorporate environmentally friendly principles into your home and reduce your energy costs.

Read 229435 times Last modified on Tuesday, 01 December 2015 06:36