Adapted From: Solar Power Your Home For Dummies

When you build a solar house, there’s more to
the story than just sun exposure. Solar takes into account water power,
wind power, breezes, landscaping, thermal mass, and so on. Before you
start planning a solar home, do some research by starting a log book.
For each location you’re considering, record facts, figures, and your
observations for each of the following aspects:

  • Know your solar exposures. What
    latitude are you in? What is the sun’s path over the course of a year
    at that latitude? For each site, stand in the middle of the lot and
    plot the sun’s course on a graph. You may have to do some guesswork
    about what the situation will be from a rooftop that hasn’t been built
    yet. Different spots on a lot will have different solar exposures with
    different shading issues.
    It goes without saying that you don’t want to
    cut trees down. Look for deciduous trees and try to envision your house
    with those trees on the southern exposure, but not shading solar
    collectors on the roof. You can plant trees, but it will take a long
    time before they can rival natural, healthy, indigenous trees.
  • Analyze prevailing winds.
    tabmarkNatural breezes are absolutely free and can make a major
    difference in the comfort of a home. Look for locations where hills
    magnify breezes in the summer. In the winter, you want natural brush
    and landscaping to block the cold winds from the north.
    To thoroughly gauge the winds, you need to
    visit a potential location at different times of the year and in
    different weather patterns. Be patient in order to be thorough.
  • Determine the water rights and drainage.
    Do you need a well? Wells have their advantages and disadvantages. You
    won’t have a water bill, but you’ll need expensive equipment. You can
    install a solar-powered well with a storage reservoir, and your water
    will be free forevermore. But wells can dry up, and the water can be of
    questionable quality.
    You also need to determine the property’s
    natural drainage. Some locations simply won’t work for a home unless
    you radically alter the property’s contour, which goes against the
    green mantra. How much water will your property require? Are you going
    to landscape? How will that affect drainage?
  • Look in to other factors. If you
    can, camp out for a day or two on a prospective lot. At the very least,
    visit at midnight, in the morning, and in the afternoon. Visit at
    different times of the year, if that’s an option. What sounds do you
    hear? Who is moving around and when?
    And don’t forget to determine what may happen
    in the future. Are you going to have a shopping mall next door five
    years hence? How about a freeway? Or an airport? To find out about
    these kinds of things, ask your realtor and at your county building
    department.

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