Keya Lea

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Passive Solar Project

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5 Basic Questions to Ask Yourself…

before knocking down part of your house and embarking on a passive solar retrofit project.

Will it work?

Adding onto a house or building a house is serious work. Effective planning can save time and resources.

1. Is there a part of the property or house that faces south?

2. Can thermal mass be effectively placed in the proposed area facing south?

3. Can the sun’s energy be harnessed? Or – How will the sun’s energy  interact with the proposed passive solar addition?

  • If the proposed area faces south but can not receive any winter sun because of immovable obstacles like a large building that blocks the sun, you really should consider other options. If there is a movable object like a non-deciduous tree, it probably needs to be moved.

Can it happen?

4.  Are there local or state building codes and/or a permitting process that need be taken into account?

  • Local easements or set-backs can determine whether or not you can remodel your house by determining where and how far a building can be located in relation to the property lines.  If you find that something is against the code, or within the easement, don’t fret.  There’s usually a way of appealing to the planning commission or way to apply for a variance.

5.  Can funding for the project be secured?

  • It’s a really bad thing to have knocked off the back of the house, and to have that process take more time and resources than what you allotted for a whole project. It can create a very breezy, cold, unsecure and generally a lame place to be living.  Try to avoid this by finding out what things cost ahead of time.  (And work really hard at making more because it’s likely that things will cost more and unforeseen problems will arise.  These darn unforeseen problems tend to cost money.)

Extra, but important question: Are you able to consistently and rationally problem solve?

If you answered 1. Yes, 2. Yes, 3. Yes  4. No – or, Yes, am aware and no problem,   5. Yes, and for the extra credit last question – Yes! – then you’re in the running.

If you answered “No.” to any of the questions, except number 4, this may indicate that perhaps a better alternative would be to sell the house and take a vacation.

I believe that I’m answering “Sure. Yes!” to all the questions and am proceeding to the next stage in planning.


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