Moving forward some years, to the time when most people realize the importance of trying to employ natural resources, rather than dominate them with brute force, what can we expect the solar home to look like?
The solar home is built with well-insulated construction, and careful attention to details, such as sealing the walls where services enter. The floor edges are insulated too. The long side of the house is oriented towards the South, and the windows in this wall amount to about 7% of the floor area. The East and West faces have about 4% of the floor area as the area of the windows. The floor inside is dark concrete, and the heavy construction stores heat during the day, which then moderates the temperature at night. There is a roof overhang, which stops the sunlight in summer from shining through the windows and overheating the space, but lets the sun, which is lower in the spring and fall, shine in and warm the rooms.
Inside, all the lights use compact fluorescent bulbs, to cut the electricity demand. The appliances, such as the refrigerator, have been selected for their efficiency for the same reason. Some other thoughtful items have been included. There are ceiling fans, which can be run in summer to delay the switching on of air conditioning; there are also solar tubes, bringing light down from the roof to illuminate the internal spaces and save turning the lights on.
All those features are carefully planned passive measures to minimize the impact and the energy requirements of this home. It also incorporates active engineering to make the home function.
The roof on the South is covered with solar shingles. These are unobtrusive photovoltaic shingles which are used instead of regular asphalt shingles. They are about twice the area of conventional solar panels, as they do not provide as large an output per square foot, but they blend in and are unobtrusive. They are wired through to roof, and connected to an inverter, which provides power to the house system. The house is connected on a net metering arrangement to the local utility, and this means that the utility is effectively providing storage of the power provided by the panels until needed – in that way, the house doesn’t need storage batteries for the energy generated. As the solar panel system is sized to the annual demands of the house, there is seldom a need to pay for any electricity, it’s all freely provided by the sun.
Although we said that this was some years in the future, everything in this description is readily available today – to make it real, all we need is to “Just do it!”