passive solar houses

Passive solar designed home

If a house is designed correctly, the resident will save on energy costs for the life of the house. This house was custom built and designed in the 90s for exactly this. It uses solar heating with crazy window layouts and fancy blinds that retracted over the windows for winter heating. It has six floors (two of which were built into a hill to help with heating/ cooling).

Lots of split height levels. If I remember correctly, when you’re inside it there are 6 ‘floors’ but most are only 1 'room’. Like the dining room was a few steps down from the kitchen and things like that. I have a side picture later but you can kind of see on the right that it’s built into a hill.

Here’s the side view (left side if you’re facing the front from outside). If you jump from window to window back and forth you can get a rough idea of how the 6 floors layout. You can also see an example of the roof windows which let sunlight into rooms and can have blinds that go across them in summer to reflect sunlight (heat).

These 'levels’ don’t go straight across, but this shows a bit of how crazy the inside was laid out. They’re more like half stories than actual stories so I guess it would be considered a 'three-story’ house.

Room at the bottom of the staircase.

Dining room. Opening on the left would’ve been through to the stairwell area and lower levels. You could pretty much see into the level above or below somewhere on each level.

An example of the stair case. It wound like this around the column on the right side. Every half-story would have a level with a room or two on it.

The stairs continuing up with an example on the left of an opening for light/ air circulation

You can see the opening at the top right of this pic which is also in the next one.

Things like this are in most rooms. It was all designed to let sunlight in and around all the rooms. If I remember correctly all of this has to do with heat traveling from the lower rooms (insulated by the hill) to the upper rooms efficiently as well.

In case you didn’t notice the blinds, these are a couple of them. The closer one is down.

Just a random room. Every room was extremely well lit with natural lighting pretty much all year round.

If you are interested on this topic, there’s a good book called Bulldozer to the Countryside that talks about the American housing industry from the 40’s to 70’s and how the suburban development of the 50’s contributed to the rise of environmentalism in the 60’s and 70’s. It mentions that affordable and cheap central air conditioning and heat basically killed the early solar home. It was a surprisingly great read.

There’s a lot of online resources on passive houses, but the gist of it is to have a lot of south facing windows that allow solar radiation to heat the house during the winter, with overhangs that block out the summer sun. Having thick, insulated walls with moisture and air barriers keeps air creates a thermal barrier, keeping the interior of the house at a moderate temperature throughout the year. It eliminates the use of mechanical ventilation and heating/cooling systems, and having lots of glazing allows for natural lighting, saving money on electricity.


This is my idea for a tiny house. It’s bigger than most micro homes I have seen, with the main structure at 15 x 30 feet. This is partially because I have four children, and also because my husband is a large, over 6ft guy who isn’t too keen on the idea of being stuffed into a small space. This way we still get full sized appliances and beds. I loved the idea of the bookshelf that transforms into a ladder. The loft would also have railing all-around and be open to the living room below. I envision the upstairs beds as cubby beds, with drawers underneath, and bookshelves all around the inside. The master bed would have drawers underneath as well, and every available wall space in the master bedroom would be bookshelves. There is a full sized stackable washer and dryer in one of the bedroom closets. I want the whole roof covered in solar panels, and in the greenhouse I would like to use aquaponics to grow our food year round, and use the freefall water coming out of the tank into the plant/filter media with small hydroelectric wheels to power the pumps. There would also be a small covered front porch that I will add later. I think the shape of the house would be barn type roof trusses, just a little taller than average with an 8 foot peak at the ceiling, and with the beds built into the walls along the long sides, with a dormer in each bed cubby space. I like the idea of all in one composting toilets, and I would love to use the home’s gray water to heat the floors by running it up underneath the solar panels to heat it, then pumping it back into the tubes under the flooring. I will probably try to salvage as much as possible from craigslist, etc. The one splurge, however, is that I want a beautiful rainbow quartz in gray granite countertop. Also, I realize the fireplace chimney is incompatible with the dormer upstairs from it, so I will have to come up with a good fix for that like moving the bed and having a fireplace in the loft as well.
Sorry for the watermarks in the image, free android room builder.