In parts 1 and 2 of Greening an Existing Home, we looked at building materials during construction of a new home, or renovations, then heating and cooling issues that can plague all homes. Today, we’re going to take a look at passive solar design and water usage.

Passive Solar Design

Most everyone knows that the sun travels through the sky at different angles dependant on the seasons, and of course, how far from the equator you are. There are charts and equations out there for various regions, but the principle for most houses can be seen in this image. Deciduous vegetation or awnings can provide adequate passive solar protection for cooling in summer and natural heating through windows in winter. Maximizing southern exposures in this manner can drastically reduce your heating or cooling costs, and may involve a minor exterior alteration to the house, or the planting of some fast growing deciduous trees.

Here are some passive solar resources for further reading:

Water Usage

… and re-usage. In many parts of the world, particularly in cities, the quantity and quality of the water in reservoirs, dams and aquifers is declining. Basically, we need to use less water and pollute what we do use less too, if we want to keep things alive.

The most simple steps you can take are installing low flow shower heads and eliminating drips and leaks in taps faucets and pipes. Following this you can;

  • install aerator nozzles on kitchen sink taps which will reduce the flow and provide a stronger spray flow.
  • change toilets to low-flow dual-flush systems, or even waterless urinals and composting toilets. A novel option is to install something like these two patented systems.
  • install a rainwater tank to collect roof runoff. These tanks are common in dry areas of Australia and could be used extensively throughout the warmer areas of the US.
  • install water efficient dishwashers and washing machines when replacing old appliances.
  • wash the car with a bucket and sponge rather than with a hose.
  • My favorite, turn the tap off while you brush your teeth! How hard is it, people?!

Some more tips and advice can be found at these sites:

If you’ve got any other tips or tricks or would like more information, let me know in the comments (we love comments!) or drop me a line.


Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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