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Solar Passive Design

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This is an area you can’t afford to ignore and it’s really easy to incorporate the principles into the design of a new home.

It does not mean that your home has to look a certain way; it can still be modern, minimalist, federation or any style you like. What it does mean is your home will be

  • More comfortable to live in
  • Have lower energy consumption
  • Be cheaper to run
  • Have a lower environmental impact
  • Have better resale value

Orientation and glazing

Basically your home needs to take into account a number of things, first and foremost as we all know, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, in summer the sun passes almost directly over head but in winter the sun sits lower in the sky to the north.Solar passive window design

The aim is to keep your house in shade in the summer and let in sunlight in winter. Sounds good right?

In order to make the most of winter sunlight it is recommended that you have your living areas on the northern side of your house with lots of windows.

North facing windows

Request from your Builder/glass/window supplier

  • High SHGC (Solar Heat Gain) to allow passive heat gain
  • Possibly with Low Td (Transmittance – Damaging) if required. This reduces damage to floors and furnishings
  • Having a high SHGC will allow passive solar gain and a low Td will reduce the damaging UV light coming through. With standard eaves these northern windows and walls will be in shade during summer but allow in plenty of sun in winter. The winter sun will warm the concrete slab during the day and give back that heat to your room in the evening.

East and west glazing

If you can situate your wet areas on the eastern or western sides of your house they will get morning or afternoon sunlight on the exterior walls and this will prevent damp and mould problems. You’re eastern and western walls should be shaded by verandahs, deciduous trees or pergolas.

Southern windows

These wall receive little direct sunlight, this is good for bedrooms, in summer they are cool and in winter you can throw an extra blanket on the bed.


If you can align your windows and doors so you can catch the breeze through the whole house on a summers’ evening this will also give you cross ventilation and keep you cool on summer evenings. Louvre windows are great here as they allow 100% breeze in without any glass in the way


Don’t plant tall evergreen trees on the northern side of your house. These trees will seriously reduce the amount of sunlight available to you in winter. Deciduous trees are a better option. Trees on the eastern and western sides of your house will also help block summer sun, and if they are deciduous you can haveaccess to winter sunshine as well.


A solar pergola is a pergola with a slatted roof. The slats are angled at approximately 29 degrees (depending on where you live) this means winter sun passes through the slats into the house yet summer sun is entirely blocked out. There are automated pergolas on the market which will track the sun to allow maximum sunlight in winter, close if it rains and block out all sun in summer.


Try to have internal zones within the house so you can open up doors in summer to catch breezes that will drift through the whole house. But you still need to be able to close off living areas from sleeping and utility areas in winter so that you are only heating the rooms you are using at night.

Helpful Hints

To further reduce the environmental impact of your home and lifestyle you could consider:

  • Water saver tapware and shower heads (Australian Standard)
  • Energy efficient light globes (constantly being improved)
  • A pool cover if you have a pool
  • Solar Hot water system with a gas booster
  • Door seals to all exterior doors
  • Insulation
  • Consider carbon offset
  • Plant trees and water wise plants
  • Grey water recycling
  • Sub surface irrigation to the garden

Related Topics

Pergolas, shade sails


Door and Window Seals

Glazing (double)

Window Tinting