Researchers: Passive Solar Energy Could Provide ⅓ Of Home Heating Needs

Space heating is one of the biggest contributors to climate change produced by industrialized nations, creating an urgent need for carbon-free heating. Recent advances suggest that passive solar energy as a heat source can and should be part of a sustainable solution.

Researchers at the University of Oregon, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, measured the extent and extent of unused passive solar energy and compared the data with residential heating needs. Among the remarkable results, the researchers discovered that cold and cloudy climates are abundant sources of solar energy and estimated that this untapped passive solar energy could supply a third of residential heating. The group published the research in Reviews of renewable and sustainable energy.

“During the study of sustainable architecture, it became clear that there were plenty of resources we were not utilizing,” said Alexandra Rempel, one of the study’s co-authors. “People rejected the possibility that there could be enough solar energy available in cold climates.” As a result, passive solar heating has been overlooked as part of sustainable architecture and design.

Passive solar heating systems collect natural light to provide heat without converting the light into electricity. In this approach, solar radiation is collected through windows and skylights. Some are used immediately for heat, and some are stored for later use. Collecting, storing and distributing solar energy to heat without converting it into electricity is a possible option even in cold and cloudy climates, the researchers found.

Originally published by The National Science Foundation (NSF).

Featured photo by Dean Hochman (CC BY 2.0 license)

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