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Wearing Passive Solar Design

Solar Position

It’s freezing cold across much of the United States. Are you wearing passive solar clothes to stay warm?

I know it sounds like an odd question. We tend to think of using solar design for houses, not clothes. I’ll explain.

If you know it’s a cold day, do you think about what you’re going to wear? Of course you do. You might wear several layers. The layering forms more tiny air spaces around you and increases the insulating effectiveness of your clothing. You might pick out dark colors. Even if you don’t think of this as “passive solar dressing,” it is. dark colors absorb the radiant energy from the sun better than light colors. I’m sure when you’re outside on a cold, but sunny day, you walk on the sunny side of the street to stay warmer than you’d be on the shaded side. Ah! Passive solar principles, again. It’s nothing more than proper insulation and receiving the free energy benefit from the sun.

Insulation is important, so let’s not forget your hat. We always hear that we lose the most heat through our heads. Your house loses the most heat through the roof. Heat moves upward as hot air rises. So wearing a warm hat is like putting good insulation in your attic and roof. It’s the place where the investment produces the most benefit.

We do the same thing in the summer, using passive solar principles to stay cooler. Don’t you choose light colored clothes? Light colors reflect the sun’s radiant energy. You’ll stay cooler. A light colored roof in a hot climate will keep your house cooler, too. Don’t you pick clothing that breathes so you’ll stay “ventilated?” Natural ventilation in your attic will reduce your air conditioning expense. It won’t have to work as hard. With the right ventilation in many climates, air conditioning may not be essential, even on the hottest days. On a hot summer day, you might also wear a hat with a big brim. That’s like having a house with proper overhangs to shade the walls and keep the house cooler. The shading keeps you cooler whether it’s a hat or a roof.

I wrote another blog post last winter about using solar energy to help clear my driveway of snow.  It’s rare to get much snow where we live in North Carolina. But it happens from time to time. Hey, if Mother Nature is giving us free energy, we might as well use it. It’s simply a matter of understanding how to use it.

Bill Hirsch

Bill Hirsch

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