Passive Solar Design: Green Energy For Air Conditioning and Heating

passive-solar-air-conditioningPassive solar design is a method to collect solar energy using windows, walls, floors etc and distribute it to the room during winters to maintain considerably high temperature than outside or reject it to maintain inside temperature considerably cool during summer. The system does not require any mechanical or electrical devices which make it best suited for building design. Passive design takes advantage of climate in best possible way to maintain the comfortable temperature range in a room.

Passive solar design eliminates the use of any auxiliary items for heating or cooling systems, which account for 35% or more reduction of energy use, saving substantial electricity bill. Buildings are properly oriented and windows are designed in such a way that they carefully balance energy requirements without adding any mechanical or electrical devices and with minimal maintenance cost.

Passive Heating and Cooling

Masonry walls properly oriented towards south with allowance of 30 degrees, absorb heat energy when sunlight strike the wall surface. Heat absorbed is transferred inside. Once heat is inside the building, there are several technologies to spread it uniformly in a room using conduction, convection or radiation, in some homes small fans or blowers help to distribute it uniformly. Water filled containers are also used to store heat energy, as it is more effective and store twice as much heat as masonry walls per cubic meter, but water thermal storage tanks require carefully designed structural support. If building can support its weight, it can be installed in an existing building.

For passive solar heating approximately eight percent window to floor area is required for south walls. High performance windows with insulated frames, multiple glazing, low e-coating, insulating glass spacers and inert gas fills reduce heat loss by approx. 50% – 75%.


For passive cooling, the focus is on things which reduce heat energy, minimize equipment in room or building to reduce heat generation and proper dissipation in environment. Shading devices such as eaves, window awnings, shutters, trellises, glazing windows and plantation can effectively reduce solar gains upto 90%. External heat gains can also be minimized by reducing window size, using reflective materials in roof and walls. If building is under construction, special emphasis should be given to cross-ventilation and direction of winds, the most effective source of cooling during night using wind breezes.

Thermal Mass (Trombe Wall)

Trombe wall consist of an 8 inch -16 inch thick masonry wall oriented toward south. A masonry wall with dark heat absorbing material on exterior surface and with single or double layers of glass. Glasses are placed with provision of some air space of 0.75 inch to 2 inch to provide heat transfer from glass to wall using conduction. High transmission glass maximizes solar gain to the wall. Heat from sunlight, pass through glass, stored in the wall and slowly conducted inward. Heat travels through a masonry wall at an average rate of one inch per hour, i.e. if heat absorbed to the wall at 12 noon, 8inch think wall will radiate inward at 8pm.

Proper overhang roof design is very important for Trombe walls, improper designing can prove very uncomfortable during weather changes. Overhang roofs should be designed accordingly to reduce the sunlight striking the wall during summer and maximize during winter.  Shading the Trombe wall can prevent the wall from getting hot during the time of the year when the heat is not needed.

Sameer Usmani

Sameer Usmani is a Design Engineer and Researcher who graduated from Aligarh Muslim University (Aligarh, India) in Mechanical Engineering. He has good experience in the design of sustainable buildings, HVAC system and energy conservation equipment. His primary aim is to utilize technical knowledge into creating sustainable buildings with special focus on reducing energy consumption by HVAC systems. Sameer can be contacted at

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