In modern times, more people are on the lookout for ways to be more efficient and live a sustainable lifestyle. Part of this stems from the drive to reduce our environmental impact and take better care of our planet. However, practical reasons are also a significant factor; in an uncertain economy, most of us have less spending flexibility.

Buying a home is already the biggest single purchase most people will ever make, but there will always be an element of upkeep to consider when you own property. Thus, ongoing maintenance costs will present a significant opportunity for homeowners to save. And by doing so, you often end up reducing your carbon footprint one way or another.

But the easiest way to start maintaining a more efficient home is shining upon us every day. You can use the power of the sun to cut costs, practice sustainability, and improve your quality of life.

Learning from history

Solar power has been continuously available to man since prehistoric times. The earliest records we have of solar influence in building homes date back to the age of ancient Greece. Archaeologists have studied house plans from the 5th century B.C. and found that they built homes facing south to maximize solar exposure, especially during winter or fuel shortages.

As they inherited much from Greek traditions, the ancient Romans also learned of this technique in house construction. They even improved upon it; Roman architecture introduced the ‘heliocaminus’ or sun furnace to many homes, allowing the heat from sunlight to be captured and diffused through the house. The Romans also developed glass window coverings, greenhouses, and solar zoning legislation to protect citizens’ access to sunlight.

This deliberate use of solar power in building homes wasn’t limited to European civilization, either. As early as the 12th century A.D., the Pueblo Indians of Acoma built adobe walls facing south to absorb the sun’s heat, keeping homes warm through the evening.

History presents us with several examples of entire cultures making use of the sun in designing their homes. But it also shows us that people can forget this abundant and renewable source of energy. Periodically, as alternative energy sources become available, the sun falls out of favor; more extravagant designs enter the scene.

hands holding a house model

Using passive solar design principles

Modern homes, and contemporary lifestyles in general, reflect this tendency. When resources are plentiful, we don’t put much thought towards curbing expenditure. It’s when we are faced with difficult times that efficiency becomes essential. And after the latest recession, with the dark cloud of the pandemic still lingering over the globe, people are becoming more mindful of their purse strings.

For most homeowners, there has never been a better time to start understanding and applying the principles of passive solar design. It might be too late to scout the market for a south-facing home, but a renovation can help bring in more sunlight. Experienced sunroom contractors can install a glass-enclosed space to flood your home with the sun’s energy, distributing it throughout the day while insulating to prevent heat loss to the outside.

The sun’s influence is even more potent in warm climates, and the objective of passive solar design in this situation will be the opposite: finding ways to limit solar heating. Homeowners facing hot temperatures rely too much on the HVAC to maintain a cool indoor environment, which raises costs. Bringing landscaping into the equation, you can use plant cover to provide shade, or position a thermal mass between the home and the sun to absorb heat during the day.

Improving our lives

The sun allows us to lower energy costs daily by designing our homes around its influence. But it can also contribute directly to our quality of living.

As the pandemic has forced us to spend more time indoors, working from home and having fewer social interactions, it has also highlighted the health benefits of nature. Getting out, moving around, and being close to nature will work wonders for your health. Natural light also helps regulate your sleep cycles so that you feel more energized.

Bringing the sun into your home is a chance to inject the presence of nature. Like the ancient Romans did, you can bring plants inside or maintain a greenhouse. You can make a habit of strolling around or turn the solarium into your home fitness center. The extra illumination will be a significant boost to your productivity as you work from home or in creative endeavors such as painting.

Through exercise and better well-being, you’ll enjoy each day more while lowering your healthcare costs. And that could be the most vital influence the sun has to offer in redesigning your home.

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