Passive solar building –

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    It’s 104 degrees F (41 C) in our town today. I am so grateful that our house runs north/south. I can’t stress enough how vital this is. We are in the southern hemisphere and the living area at the back of the house faces north.

    At the moment (3.30pm) my back door step outside is 57* (143*) (sorry, can’t find the degrees symbol!)
    Less than 2 feet away inside, the tiles-over-concrete floor is 31* (87).
    The southern parts of the house inside are around 26* (78).

    Our living area has lots of windows facing north. I’ve had the double blinds pulled down since 6am. It’s dark and sort of cool. The eaves outside are just deep enough to stop summer sun coming in. Our builder is a neighbour and we love him for his understanding of what we wanted. We have no air conditioner, just a few ceiling fans and stand alone fans. Our iron roof is white.

    Winter is mild – the lowest night temp around 4 degrees C. To keep warm we do similar things – pull down blinds/curtains and look out for any air leaks around doors. The slim eaves let in the low winter sun.

    If you’re building read, read then read a bit more. Look at houses, ask questions. Don’t deal with tradespeople who won’t listen to you. Get it right and you’ll be amazed how smoothly things run temperature wise.

    PS – on days like this I’m a little envious of you northerners – I’ll swap you one hot day for a roll in the snow!




    dear wendy,
    i am impressed by your house.
    if possible kindly send me photo of what you exactly to do in clod and in summer and some detailed information also.

    i am making my new bungalow so if kindly send me as soon as possible

    i am keen interested in making my house with your technology and techniques

    my mail [email protected]

    warm regards
    samveg shah



    Gladly trade ya proper temps for -30 f first thing in the morning… Aww, who am I kidding, come summer I’ll be complaining about the heat too.



    Jeremy I have absolutely no concept of -30 degrees! My hose has never frozen up and I’ve never seen snow. I admire you guys in the cold – the things you must battle with, I have no idea. I’ll send some warm vibes to ya.


    Mehaffey Farm

    My husband and I met back in the 70s during the first oil crisis. We almost immediately connected about a dream to design and build a passive solar house. For 30+ years, (two kids and now three grandchildren) we have lived in that house and it works very well. We kept to a simple design, building on a south-facing terraced slope that used to be an apple orchard on my husband’s family’s farm. The house was dug one story deep into the northern hillside, with most of the windows on the south and has a large amount of masonry inside: tile floors, and a massive central chimney for a heat sink. The angle of the winter sun is low, and penetrates deeply into the house to heat the masonry. We supplement heat in the winter with wood harvested from our farm forest, but if the sun is out on the coldest January day, we need no fire. We only fill the woodstove at night. In the summer, the angle of the sun is high, and doesn’t penetrate much into the house. Deciduous oaks in front are fully leafed out and shade us further. The masonry stays very cool and keeps us comfortable with no air conditioning necessary.
    One of the nicest parts about living here is when the rest of the area loses power from an ice storm, or bad snowstorm, which happens at least once every winter, we are able to stay toasty and warm, without too much hardship, and we cook on our woodstove.



    Yes, I can say that we too are happy to be in a home that finally works for us in the summer and winter: it’s south-facing and the sun doesn’t come in during the summer. In the winter, we have a veranda and on a sunny day, that will heat the house all day. We still use wood to heat at night.

    But I like the idea of using more masonary to keep temperatures stable. . .Like a rock wall in the veranda where the sun hits. We’d also like to enlarge one of our south-facing windows to let in more light in the winter–so it might be smart to have something to radiate back that heat in the evening.

    But our house is completely simple in design–a very average home from the 80’s. The thing that saves it is the great exposition.

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