The sun is the ultimate provider of green energy. Solar power is constant and renewable. It’s not going to run out anytime soon. However, you don’t need unsightly solar arrays to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. Passive solar energy is simple, has little to no moving parts and requires minimal upkeep. Passive solar-energy systems are designed to use natural principals of heat transfer instead of machines such as furnaces and air conditioners [source: Passive Solar Resources].
Passive solar technology uses the building’s walls, windows and floors to collect, store and release the sun’s energy. However, passive solar homes still need mechanical equipment, such as a forced-air system or radiant flooring to keep the temperatures cool in the summer and warm in the winter [source: Arizona Solar Center].
The easiest passive solar design systems to install are called “direct gain.” In direct gain systems, sunlight passes through windows where the light is converted into thermal energy. The walls and floors directly absorb and store the heat energy. As long as the room temperature is high, the interior of the homes will hold on to the heat. When the temperature drops at night, the stored heat radiates through the living space. Builders can also install plastic or metal water pipes inside a wall. When the sun hits the walls the water in the pipes heats up. That water can be pumped throughout the house as a source of heat [source: Arizona Solar Center].
Some people don’t mind outfitting their roofs with solar cells. Solar cells contain photovoltaic materials, which convert sunlight directly into electricity. That electricity can then be used to heat, cool and light a house. Solar cells have been around for decades. They power everything from space ships to calculators. There’s one problem, however. Today’s cells are not efficient. They covert only about 10 percent of sunlight into energy [source: Herberman].
Moreover, such photovoltaic systems are expensive. Depending on the size, it costs between $27,000 and $36,000 to install a photovoltaic system with solar panels. It would take about 12 to 15 years to recoup all that money on your energy bills. However there are tax rebates and other incentives that can reduce the economic impact of installing an active solar energy system [source: Scherzer].
There are cheaper active solar heating systems on the market, though. Such systems use liquids, including water, or air. In both of these systems, the liquid or air is able to absorb the sun’s energy through a collector. Those collectors then transfer the sun’s heat directly to the home or into a storage system. From there the heat is dispersed through the house [source: U.S. Department of Energy].
Please note that all information is referenced from the following company at http://home.howstuffworks.com for informational purposes only and has not been written by NYM Heating + Cooling.