Monday, September 21, 2015

Passive Solar Heating

Regardless of published government statistics, the average middle-class American KNOWS that inflation is much higher than our news media reports.  Some folks have been keeping track of real world cost increases vs income for quite sometime and have reports as high as a 45% "real world" inflation rate since 2008.  I'm not sure how scientific these reports are, but regardless of the exact figures, literally every person I know lives and struggles with the daily effects of steep inflation, despite the lies the U.S. government publicizes.

I can personally attest to a 7% increase in our household utility costs and property taxes in just the past 4 years!  And, of course, like most American families, our income has remained stagnant.

The majority of our home has windows on the east and south sides.  Fortunately, we have only two windows and one set of French doors on the north side  and again two windows and another set of French doors on the west (the sides that take most of the bitter 25 mph winter winds).  The Jablonski family who originally built this home nearly 100 years ago, knew a little something about passive solar heating, although it didn't have such a fancy name back then.  They used their common sense to take the most advantage of the warm sunshine and block as much of the bitter winds as possible during the harsh winters. 

During the summer months we are greeted with stunning sunrises and lots of warm, no HOT, sunshine streaming in through the east and south facing windows.  By 10:30 AM our home will heat up by more than 20 degrees if we don't close the windows and pull the shades by 8:30 AM.  I absolutely refuse to use an air conditioner in this climate.  Although not lined with thermal insulation, the dark shades in the above photo block a tremendous amount of heat during the summer months.   One of this winter's projects is to add thermal insulation to the backs of our window shades so they will be even more effective at reducing the heat next summer.

Consequently, just as the leaves begin changing color our nighttime temperatures drop to the mid 40's and our daytime temperatures also cool down to the mid 60's.  This is my signal that it's time to remove the window shades and allow the sunshine to heat up our home.  I make sure to use my window cleaner regularly during the winter months because clean windows allow for the most heat exchange.  By allowing our home to warm up to the upper 70's during the day, the interior of our home will stay warm, above 65 degrees, at night.  Thus, we will not have to turn our heat on for another 6 + weeks.

We are fortunate the previous owner installed doubled pane windows in the living portion of the house during a remodel.   Our basement windows are still the old originals but we have plans to upgrade those to triple pane next summer.  Another insulating tool that blocks the heat as well as the cold is the ever so inexpensive tube of caulk.  By caulking your window casings (be careful to avoid the slide portion that allows the window to open and close) and the wood trim around your window casings, you will create a barrier that keeps cooler air inside during the summer and cold air out during the winter.  If a home does not have double or triple pane windows, I believe caulking single pane windows is imperative to lowering energy costs.

If your energy bills have been rising as quickly as ours, I encourage you to examine the placement of your home's windows and utilize shades in the warmest areas during the summer months to aid in keeping your home cooler.  Likewise, remove the majority of window coverings from the sunniest parts of your home during the winter months so you may utilize the natural warming power of the sun.

Do you utilize the natural power of passive solar heating in your home?  Do you have any additional tips that could benefit me or others?


  1. Love your ideas. We have a large window on the south side of our house. I did have a good shade for that window but it fell apart and since we are planning to replace that window, I have not replaced the shade. But I really missed it this summer. It truly makes a difference.

    Even if we don't have a new window by next summer, I will be finding some way to shade this window from the hottest sunny days.

    Thanks for your encouragement to find ways to save.

  2. Hi Gina,

    I am glad you enjoyed this post and found it useful. Thank you for leaving a comment.


  3. For us, the most effective way of reducing the heat to come through windows and glass doors was to shade them from outside. The cheapest (yet still very effective) option was a bamboo blind, and one door I even covered with a straw beach mat before we found a blind the correct size for it. We have also used shadecloth, have a canvas awning over the large window that gets most of the morning sun in summer, and we have a blind hanging at the front of our verandah, which is even more effective as the air between the blind and the house remains cooler...
    Another tip is to tape bubble wrap inside the windows, which may not look so pretty, but in the middle of a heatwave that is the least of my concerns!
    All the best,

  4. Hi Kit,

    Thank you for taking time to comment and for sharing your personal solutions to combat summertime heat. I wish I had known about your exterior bamboo blind solution when I lived near the Gulf Coast. I don't know if bamboo is sturdy enough withstand the constant 15 mph + winds up here on the Montana prairie BUT, it does get me to brainstorming for other exterior shading solutions that may be sturdy enough for our climate.
    Again, thank you for sharing your expertise.

  5. I know costs in our area have risen dramatically in the last ten years and our income is dramatically lower. It's caused me to search for very thrifty options.

    Thanks for sharing this idea and for talking to me at Harvest Lane Cottage!

    Mrs. Laura Lane

  6. Hello Laura,

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and taking time to read some of my post. I especially enjoy when others find my humble tips beneficial.

    Blessing to you and yours,


Thank you for taking time to read my blog and leave a comment. I try my best to respond to each one. God Bless You, Mrs.B