How To Use Natural Sunlight To Increase Warmth In Your Home

5 tips for harnessing the sun to warm your home without electricity or fuel consumption

Natural sunlight use in your home will reduce your environmental footprint. It is the easiest way to use green power in your home. Before electricity and fancy solar panels, houses were designed to take advantage of the renewable solar power of the sun. Longest walls and window glass faced north or south. Roof eves were wide, covering the windows on the south side of houses. There was a calculated roof eave width-to-window height ratio. During the summer, the sun was prevented from reaching the windows, and when the sun’s angle dropped to the winter solstice position, warm rays of sunshine penetrated deep into the houses. Transom windows were installed high on the walls over exterior doors. Fresh air ventilation allowed warm air rising to the ceiling to be moved by natural convective air movement with no energy cost incurred.

Even if you are not designing or building a new home, you can learn about how to use sunlight for warmth through the many solar energy and alternative power sites on the web. Government agencies such as the US Department of Energy and California's Consumer Energy Center have useful information for consumers interested in green power on their websites.

Step 1: Dusty, dirty windows block out the warming rays of the sun

If an applied window film can reduce the amount of heat coming through glass by 50 to 70 percent, affecting the need for HVAC, imagine what a dusty, dirty window could do in the winter if you are trying to stay warm. Use eco-friendly white vinegar to clean both the inside and outside of your windows.

Step 2: Layer your window coverings to take advantage of natural sunlight

During winter’s daylight hours, penetrate rooms with sunlight to increase warmth in your home. Use a light-colored, loose-weave curtain as a daylight layer. Leave curtains open on south-facing windows. Close window coverings at night, use a window covering layer that is insulated. The insulated covering can be used during the summer to keep the warm sunlight from entering and heating the house. Before electricity, mirrors were strategically placed in all of the rooms to reflect sunlight; adding them will warm and brighten the room.

Step 3: Install a skylight to take advantage of solar heating

Skylights provide homes with day lighting and warmth. A properly selected and installed energy-efficient skylight can minimize heating, cooling and lighting costs.

Step 4: Add a sunroom for green powered heat

Built in the proper location, sunrooms can capture solar energy to heat your home. Sunlight entering the sunroom is retained using the air of the room and a wall with a high thermal mass, or ability to store heat, which divides the sunroom and your living space. Interior vents convect the air between the sunroom and the rest of your home. To keep your home from over-heating, operable windows or vents to the outside are necessary to exhaust excessive heat during the summer and winter.

Step 5: Choose the color of your roof wisely

When it is time to reroof, consider the sunlight that hits your roof and the climate zone that you live in. In some climate zones, the energy focus is on heating your home and others cooling.

A 1998 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report LBNL-40673 concluded that in a warm climate, coating roofs white reduces air conditioning energy use between 10 and 50 percent. The notion that dark colors absorb heat and light colors reflect heat has now been affected by the development of new materials applied to roofing that allow you to have a dark-colored roof that reflects the sun's rays, preventing solar heat absorption. Check your new roof’s emissivity, the ability of a material to release, or radiate, heat. A low-emissivity roof can be beneficial in cold climates, saving on heating energy costs.

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