Categories: Home Finance

Rethinking Energy: Passive Solar Homes

I want to help you rethink the way you do energy a little bit.

1st: Use high quality energy for high quality purposes and low quality energy for low quality purposes. What I mean by high quality energy and low quality energy is that high quality energy is very dense energy and it has the ability to do a lot of work while low quality energy is not very dense and it does not have the ability to do a lot of work.

Example: gasoline is high quality energy. The energy in one gallon of gasoline can keep your smart-phone running for over 3,000 days. That is a lot of packed energy. On the other hand, the sun is not a form of high quality energy. For example, it takes about 21 square miles of photo-voltaic solar panels to get the same energy as a nuclear power plant that takes up 1.7 square miles of land.

  • We should be using high quality sources of energy like gas for high quality purposes like driving a car.
  • We should also be using low quality energy sources like the sun for low quality purposes like heating our homes.

2nd: I  want to propose a new way of thinking about insulating and heating your home. The conventional thought process for heating your home is to moderately insulate your home and then use an efficient heating system to do the rest of the heating of your home. Any added insulation on today’s standard houses does not make sense economically because the added cost of insulation will not be made up in saved costs in heating. I am going to show you that in the long run, it is worth it to super insulate your house.

Theoretical numbers: The graph below proves that the theoretical numbers I will be using are correct.

Spend the extra money to super insulate your house is worth the extra upfront cost.

  • No need for central heating system
  • Can get to zero heating costs
  • Large upfront costs, but will payoff in the long run with the new way of thinking proposed

Costs below are of initial build of a house. It is difficult to retrofit an old house.

Energy and money saved from new insulation.

  • Cost=$4,555
  • Savings=162
  • Payback=62 years

Under a new way of thinking though, by spending the $4,555 on insulation costs, you can eliminate the need for having a heater in your home. By completely eliminating having a central heating system, real costs savings can be found.

My Pop Can Solar Air Heater

Instead of having a heating system, you could use pop can solar air heaters to heat your home. Right below this you can see a picture of the finished product.

This pop can solar air heater was made of the following materials.


  • Air comes in a whole in the bottom and then travels up through the cans and then out of the top.
  • As it travels through the cans, the energy from the sun heats up the pop cans.
  • These pop cans then transfer the heat to the air as aluminum is a very good conductor of heat.

The Numbers

  • Produced 4.2 GJ of the total 18.33 GJ or 23% of the the extra insulated house’s heating load.
  • 14% of the total heating load in the coldest month.
  • 7 of these pop can solar air heaters to heat the highly insulated house.

Now this is a new way to think about heating a home. Instead of having a furnace, you spend more money on insulation and then use some small form of solar air heating to fill the final gap.

Using this system

  • save $375 a year
  • Payback of 4 years which is fantastic.
  • Using low quality energy in the form of the sun for a low quality use in the form of heating the house.
  • It just makes sense, but it does take a new way of thinking.

To note, having 7 pop can solar panels laying up against your house may not look the best. Also, it would be difficult to find that many used windows for free and to drink enough to get all the pop cans needed. Because of these points, it may not be feasible for people to heat their homes with pop can solar air heaters, but it does show that heating your house with the power of the sun is very possible.

Passive Solar Homes

So instead of using pop can solar air heaters, why not have your home be a solar air heater. The pop can solar air heater is just the sun shining through windows and heating up the air on the inside. If you just put windows on your house on the south side to capture the sun, then there is no need for pop can solar air heaters.

To sum it all up, it makes sense for people to spend the extra money on insulation when they were initially building their house so that their homes are prepared to use a low quality but readily available energy source of the sun.

The Value Geek 2019