Passive Solar Design

It is estimated that heating and cooling accounts for roughly 40% of the energy consumption of an average Australian home. Passive solar design aims to reduce this consumption by intelligently positioning rooms and windows in order to maximise solar gains in winter and reduce the heat of direct sunlight during summer. This is done in association with shading devices, insulating building assemblies and by paying close attention to the thermal mass of each individual home. The overall goal is to improve the comfort of the occupants and strike a balance between winter heating and summer cooling. This can differ depending on your location, however, for the Mornington Peninsula, which is in climate zone 6, the following items need to be carefully considered:

  • The orientation of living areas & windows to face north.
  • The right amount of glazing in each orientation (mostly to reduce winter losses)
  • Shading devices (both passive and active) tailored for the sun's path
  • Draught proofing, tight-fitting doors and windows, chimney dampers, self-closing fans & other construction detailing to minimise airflow in and out of the building.
  • Zoning areas within a home so you can avoid heating and cooling the whole house when not in use.
  • Double glazing or Low-E glass, including thermally broken aluminium, upvc or timber frames due to their low conductance.
  • Thermal mass (concrete slab or internal brickwork) to store heat & regulate temperature.

Minimum Standards

All new homes, renovations, alterations and additions also need to comply with the Energy Efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code (NCC) and the 6 Star Standard. As with all things architectural, there are many considerations, including views, design style, budget, council requirements and existing vegetation and it is not always practical to achieve a perfect passive solar design on every site. What if your site faces north and you have a stunning view facing south, or there’s a beautiful old oak tree to the north and it’s protected by a council overlay. That’s where the use of a Professional Energy Rater is a good idea because they can assist you in striking the right balance between comfort and efficiency, while also suggesting small changes that may really improve your homes overall performance.

The YourHome government website states that “good passive design is critical to achieving a lifetime of thermal comfort, low energy bills and low greenhouse gas emissions.” Their website is full of further information and has some great tips that can improve the efficiency of your home. But it doesn’t end there, consider using energy efficient lighting, appliances and smart devices which can monitor your consumption and there is nothing wrong with rugging up on the couch before turning on the heater.

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