Passive systems do not use mechanical devices such as fans, blowers, or pumps to distribute solar heat from a collector. Instead, they take advantage of natural heat flow to distribute warmth. An example of a passive system for space heating is a sunspace or solar greenhouse.
Passive systems also make use of materials with large heat capacities (stone, water, or concrete) to store and deliver heat. These are called thermal masses.
Instructions: Place your cursor over the numbers in the image below to see the essential elements of a passive solar system.
Click here to open a text description of the Passive Solar Heating System activity.
Passive Solar Heating Systems
The essential elements of a passive solar system include:
- Solar collection via south-facing windows.
- Thermal storage via concrete or stone walls and floors.
- Excellent insulation to prevent the loss of collected energy.
Passive systems can be categorized into three types:
- Direct Gain - Allows the solar energy to come in through the south-facing window panes.
- Indirect Gain - Allows the solar radiation to heat a wall and then the energy is slowly delivered into the interior of the house. Openings in the wall (called a Trombe Wall), as shown in the figure below, promote convective currents:
- Cold room air enters the space between the glass panel and the wall through the bottom opening.
- As this cold air gets heated, it rises to the top and comes in through the top opening.
- Greenhouse Addition - An attached sunspace and/or solar greenhouse heated by the solar energy - where some of the energy is used to grow the plants and some of it is used to heat the interior of the house.
These systems are shown below.