Active Vs. Passive Solar: Which Is Right for Your Home?

Solar energy seems like a simple enough concept to grasp: various panels absorb the rays from the sun and then turn that energy into power for your home. However, it is a little more complicated than that. Solar power is utilized by the radiation that the sun sends back down to earth – billions of volts get sent to earth through the rays of the sun’s light. Clouds, trees and other objects that rely on the sun’s warmth absorb many of these rays. As a homeowner, you can capture the energy of the sun using two methods: either active or passive solar capture. Here are some of the differences between the two and whether one or the other may be right for you.

First and foremost, it is important to understand the difference between active and passive solar energy capture methods. Understanding the difference is critical when you are deciding between the two. One of the most common methods between the two is active solar, which uses panels and other mechanical devices to capture the rays of the sun. You’ve probably seen solar panels on homes before – various photolytic cells turn the sun’s energy into power, which is usually directed into a converter unit that distributes the power and energy throughout the home.

The other – less common – method to utilize solar power is the passive method. The passive method is a more holistic approach, because you aren’t using machines or solar panels – you are using the actual building or structure. Passive solar homes use materials that capture the heat of the sun to warm a home in the winter and cool it in the summer. This is done not only with materials, but also architectural features, like louvers and arched roofs. Passive solar homes may also have interesting angles and are built with key features directed toward the sun, like atriums and solariums.

When deciding between the two, you want to look at a number of factors. For instance, how much of a budget do you have? The truth is that you implement both passive and active solar energy systems without that big of a budget. You could install a solar panel to simply heat your water heater or you could install solar panels to completely power your home. You could also implement small elements of passive solar design, like replacing your old windows with double paned, insulated glass that helps filter the sun’s warmth and energy.

Lastly, the other option is to combine the two. If you want to go all out and you are working with an architect or contractor, you may want to build your home with both a passive and active solar energy system. For instance, you could build your walls with weather resistant materials, like cement, and you can install solar panels on the roof. By doing this, you can give your home net zero energy status, which means that you are generating more energy than you are using. Also, you will get maximum indoor air quality and ventilation. In the end, if you want to shrink your carbon footprint to a microscopic size and really save money on your monthly energy bills, you may want to think about going with both.

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