DIY Solar Energy — Passive vs. Active Design Posted on 08 May 07:30

Powering your home with DIY solar energy will slash your electricity costs and set you on the road to energy independence.

Solar homes can capture power from the sun through passive and active technologies. As a do-it-yourselfer, understanding these strategies can help you plan a PV system that meets all your needs — and then some.

DIY solar energy design

Passive Design for DIY Solar Projects

Passive solar design strategies take advantage of a home’s structure, orientation and the surrounding environment to minimize energy use.

No mechanical equipment is used in passive design. Instead, energy efficiency strategies naturally reduce heating and cooling loads.

For example, homeowners embarking on do-it-yourself solar projects can invest in window treatments like reflective films, mesh screens or insulated panels. These products, designed for windows that face east or west, block summer heat while preventing heat loss during the winter.

Awnings are an option for south- and west-facing windows, as they help reduce summer heat gain. Installing thermal mass materials, such as brick, concrete, tile or stone is also a highly effective passive design strategy.

Finally, properly placed landscaping can maximize a solar energy system’s efficiency. Plant deciduous trees and bushes (the kind that drop their leaves) where they will most effectively provide shade for your home during the summer. During the winter, once their leaves drop, they will allow the sun’s warmth in when it’s most welcome. Just be careful not to plant any landscape element where it may shade you panel array.

Active DIY Solar Energy Systems

Active design uses specialized equipment to capture the sun’s energy and turn it into usable electricity.

Photovoltaic panels, inverters, wiring and mounting components are all parts of an active solar energy system. Once installed, this equipment works to generate free electricity.

Some active do-it-yourself PV systems also include solar generators or batteries to store excess electricity for use at night and during inclement weather. Active PV systems are also becoming popular for heating water, swimming pools and even to use on camping trips far away from the power grid.

Designing an Effective DIY Solar Energy System

If you’re like many solar DIYers, you may want to use both passive and active technologies to harness the sun’s power.

Although using both strategies can maximize your energy efficiency, passive design isn’t strictly necessary. A DIY solar panel array can create more than enough electricity for your home, whether you decide to also invest in energy-efficient window treatments, thermal masonry or new landscaping elements.

You can install an effective photovoltaic system right now, without changing a thing about your home design. And your lifestyle doesn’t have to change, either. You can go on using the same amount of electricity you always have, while spending much less money.

But if you are looking to get the most bang for your solar energy buck, using both passive and active design is the way to create an optimally efficient system.

At Solar GOODs, your energy independence online superstore, we have all the resources you need to design a productive — and highly cost-effective — DIY solar energy system. To explore your options, browse our website today.