What’s the Greenest House?

Author: Kelly Zeng

Editors: Vincent Cheng and Kira Tian

Artist: Daelah Nicholas

Scientists now advocate for people to protect the environment through the use of renewable energy sources, which are more sustainable than nonrenewable resources because they have a lower environmental impact and are replenished naturally. Many businesses have started using renewable resources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass energy to respond to societal demands. So, what are some ways households can incorporate these resources? It may be hard to get a wind turbine in your backyard. However, it is fairly simple to use solar energy through passive solar heating.

Passive solar heating is a strategy to reduce the demand for space heating and to reduce the cost of heating/cooling systems in households. Unlike active solar heating, no mechanical equipment is required in passive solar heating, meaning no future repair and maintenance is needed. The main idea is to use building components to collect, store, and distribute solar heat in the winter and block direct sunlight in the summer. Therefore, it’s better to incorporate this strategy when first designing the building. Passive solar heating not only reduces the cost of energy but also provides comfortable and favorable living space.

Here are some ideas to consider when designing your house. South-facing windows do a great job of allowing more direct sunlight to enter and heat rooms during cold winters. Windows and skylights replace electric lights during the day because natural sunlight lights up the house. Roofs with overhangs block the higher angled sunlight in the summer and allow the lower angled sunlight to warm the house in the winter. Having trees next to windows can also prevent direct heating in the summertime and absorb heat in winter after leaves fall. If you live in high precipitation areas, it’s good to consider having green roofs and permeable pavements because they filter out the pollutants that pollute water and reduce the runoff from storms. If you live in areas with a cold climate, it’s always better to install insulation and use high thermal mass materials. Insulation is generally low-cost and maintenance. You may lose 35% of the heat without adequate insulation. A material that has thermal mass can absorb, store and release solar energy. Materials like concrete, stone, brick and ceramic tiles are usually used in floors or walls near the south-facing windows. When considering the floor choices, concrete or dark-colored floors are the best surfaces to collect and store heat.

Overall, passive solar heating is an economically and environmentally sustainable strategy easily applied to any building. With no mechanical equipment, it warms the space in the winter and cools the house in summer through the physical characteristics of different materials and the sunlight. Most of the appliances are cheap and durable with little maintenance needed. Buildings with passive solar heating are not merely practical but also aesthetically pleasing.



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Accessed June 2021.

"Is Insulation Worth It?" The Renewable Energy Hub,


Accessed June 2021.

"Thermal Mass." Green Passive Solar Magazine,


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