Solar Power: The First Step

Posted on
December 15, 2015 by

Daylighting – What It Is And How To Do It

Daylighting is the process of designing a building for the maximum use of sunlight as illumination. It’s an effective and efficient way to reduce energy bills and your carbon footprint while protecting the environment. People are drawn to environments full of natural light – it makes our bodies and minds healthier. In fact, it’s been shown that people buy more, office workers are more productive, and students make better grades when there’s sunlight available. Using sunlight as part of a home lighting system can even help with seasonal depression.

Despite the benefits that sunlight has for people, many of us still live in inefficient homes that are big, but dark and cold in the winter, while being too bright in summer. This is poor design that we’ve compensated for by using a lot air conditioning and heating, as well as burning too many electric lights. You don’t have to burn massive amounts of fossil fuels to live comfortably in a house that’s well designed.

Daylighting is an important part of passive solar design for buildings. Passive solar design helps use the natural light of the sun to regulate the temperature inside a home, keeping it warmer in winter and cooler in summer. There’s no need to use extra energy or mechanical systems. While earlier passive solar designs were unattractive and clumsy, modern designs are more advanced.

A common misconception is that daylighting will be too bright or cause overheating. However, when properly designed, a home using daylighting is actually a comfortable temperature and brightness all year round. The right positioning of windows in your home will eliminate heat and glare.  Good passive solar design works in just about every climate, even in the winter, and there are lots of options to choose from.

A good passive solar home should be designed to work with every season.  It has most windows on the south side, and an overhang that prevents too much sun from getting in during the summer. Thermal mass should be used to store and distribute heat in the winter, and to cool the house in summer. No matter where you live, the right window placement, orientation, and size are important. Too many windows will overheat or cool the house. Windows placed in the wrong location won’t provide the right amount of light.

Of course, building from scratch isn’t an option for everyone. You can still use daylighting in your home, even if you need to retrofit. Here is a good example of what you can do to outfit your home for daylighting.

Planting deciduous trees that offer shade in summer and light in winter can help. Trellises of vines can provide similar results, or you can install a retractable awning. Interior blinds also work, though there’s some loss of efficiency.

For dark homes, skylights and solar tubes can improve the amount of available light. Use the right kind of skylight to prevent leaks and excess heat buildup or escape. Solar lighting, in which sunlight is channeled into a building through optical fibers, is a great choice for commercial buildings.

Using the natural light from the sun is a great way to take another step towards sustainable living, and is a great first step to taking advantage of solar power.