FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a passive solar house?
A passive solar house is designed to be orientated North to collect heat from the sun primarily in winter, and also in autumn and spring. This free source of radiant heat is stored in a dense mass material inside the house such as concrete, which then acts as a constant heat source after the sun has gone down. As long as the sun provides the heat, and the home is also well insulated, it will maintain a pleasant temperature. The moderating influence of the concrete can also serve to cool the house in the summer in tandem with passive ventilation.
Does a passive solar house include solar hot water?
There are two main types of solar panels - one converts sunlight to hot water, the other to electricity. These two active (not passive) methods of providing alternative forms of free energy are separate to the passive solar house design which concentrates on the passive space heating and cooling of the interior in the design of the house itself. Solar hot water heating is however actively encouraged as it is one of the most effective ways to reduce your environmental footprint.
Does a passive solar house cost more than
an average house?
Not necessarily. Where most houses go wrong is that the rooms of
the house are not orientated correctly in relation to the sun at
the design stage. This doesn't cost any extra! Where the extra
expenses could be is in the extra insulation you will have, although
this is not necessarily too much more than building regulation.
The concrete floor could be extra in certain situations eg some
Does my passive solar house have to look
the same as the demonstration house?
No. It is up to you how you would like your home to look - you
can choose on all types of finishes and fixtures both interior
and exterior. We aim to help guide you with your choice of style
through the design process. The main thing you will be restricted
to is the exposed mass concrete floor (or tiles) on the front of
Will we save much money on electricity bills?
If your primary source of heating is electricity then yes! A lot
of homes use gas heating or woodburners so this will be a different
type of savings in those examples. If you have a solar hot water
panel and employ other electrical energy efficiency features such
as low usage appliances then you will be saving more there too.
We will provide you with the advice you need to make these decisions.
Will it be a time consuming process making
decisions with a Powered Living house?
We have done all the passive solar design research for you. We
will be able to provide you with the information you need to make
decisions easy. That is the whole idea behind the Powered Living
concept house - you are working with a highly preconsidered design
incorporating a high level of information.
How energy efficient does a house design need
As this is what we specialise in, we would encourage you to consider a good level
of passive solar design. There often need to be compromises due to site situations,
however with our design skills and your interest, we can normally come up with
good solutions to some of the most challenging sites.
Does a passive solar house need to have
Yes, in the front north facing (living) rooms, and some rear rooms are beneficial
too. Hard floors do have some disadvantages but in a passive solar house the
air temperature will always be warm and if you use a warm colour for the concrete
then it will look and feel warm too. In many ways a coloured concrete (or tiled)
floor can look and feel just as warm as a timber floor.
Will we need to provide back up heating?
In most parts of New Zealand, as long as there is sun you should not need to
rely on any extra non solar heating. The mass materials inside your home will
store and release the heat when the sun is not out. Your house will not feel
cold in the evening or first thing in the morning in the winter. Back up heating
maybe considered a good idea in some lower sun areas of NZ, although you won't
need to use it as often as in a conventional house!