Solar Homes

The Earth receives more energy from the sun in one hour then the world uses in a whole year. Solar energy is a renewable resource (it may go away at night, but lights your day in the morning).

Sun Tempered Homes

Homes with proportionately more south walls are easier to heat with passive solar. More available wall and window area facing the sun equals more heat.

Cooling this home seems to be more difficult because of the greater southern exposure. This, however, is not the case. Properly sized overhangs shade the south wall in the summer due to the high sun angle at midday.

Homes elongated on the east-west axis will have a natural advantage in heating and cooling a home efficiently.

Passive Solar Homes

Passive solar is the direct use of the sun’s heat to warm your home. It can utilize south facing glass, a solarium, and the building’s own mass to capture,distribute and store the sun’s heat. Passive systems are simple in concept and use, have few moving parts, and require little or no maintenance.

The passive solar design requires a critical balance to take advantage of solar heat and provide the comfort required by the home owner.

In the past, passive solar has been misapplied creating a loss of comfort to the individual living in their home. Oversized glass areas with insufficient storage mass created temperature swings beyond a person’s tolerance level.

The solution is moderation and control, just like in our lives. SunTerra’s approach to a passive solar home is “do it,” with cost and comfort in mind. Our conservation guide will help you properly build your passive solar home and apply the passive cooling you desire.

Window Technology

When designing an energy-efficient home, it is not uncommon that over 50% of the total heat loss is through the windows and doors,we want to reduce that with the right type of windows. Being a company that designs and builds homes for our customers, we understand value in the proper amount of natural light penetrating your home, its passive solar capability, and taking advantage of that great view. The key is balance and proper economic choices.

If you don’t plan properly, that fantastic west view that you just can’t live without may be directly responsible for your home's overheating in the afternoon that you can’t live with. You can take advantage of that view and still be comfortable with good planning. Proper roof overhangs, a trellis, glass tinting, window coverings, or a combination of these design elements may be needed.

South facing glass needs to be for passive solar heat gain in your home. It is important to distribute and absorb the heat generated by the south glass to maintain adequate comfort levels in your home.

New window glazing technology allows you to select a glazing that either increases or decreases heat gain and heat loss. Now you can choose the right window in the right location to maximize energy efficiency while capturing that solar heat and those great views. Our conservation guide will help you select the optimum windows for your home.

Active Solar Homes

The most common types of active solar energy systems being installed on homes in the cold regions today are:

  1. Solar domestic hot water systems
  2. Solar hydronic space heating systems
  3. Photovoltaic (PV) system

Active solar home energy systems have been successfully installed and operating for many years now. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s, solar technology rapidly advanced, stimulated by the energy shortage crisis and the state and federal tax credits available to the consumers.

It appears we have returned to the same conditions. Active solar homes have proved themselves to be a viable and dependable source of sustainable energy use. SunTerra Homes learned during those 70’s and 80’s to design roof systems to accept active solar. You will see this as you review our plans.

Active solar heating is a wonderful clean source of heat. SunTerra installed dozen of these systems in Montana during the 80’s that are still functioning today. It is a very rewarding way to heat one’s home.

Taking your active solar home to the next level brings us to photovoltaic power. Photovoltaic solar cells convert sunlight directly into electricity with an almost negligible loss of power. A home equipped with such a system could be self sufficient, off the electrical grid, provided it made prudent use of electrical power and relied on active solar or propane for heating and for several major appliances. If you are on the grid and your electric company gives you credit for power you generate and do not use, you could live in a net zero energy home, producing yearly as much electricity as you use.

Keep your eye on photovoltaic systems; they are a growing industry showing promise to help our future energy needs. If you can’t afford active solar on your new home today, consider installing what is required to retrofit it in the future.