The Kosmer Solar House Project

The Passive Solar Home

Kosmer passive solar house at dusk. *


Welcome to 21st Century Solar Heating

Just after January 1, 2000, I left the 20th Century and I haven’t been back since. If your attention is rooted in the 21st Century, you only need your eyes and ears to understand that energy efficiency and sustainability will be the unfolding story of our time for the foreseeable future.

In the 21st Century, any home design that does not incorporate super energy efficiency for maximum total annual energy savings is a non-starter. In this new epoch, if you don’t incorporate energy efficiency into a new home plan, you simply become a 21st Century Nero: fiddling with home design as America burns fuel. The earlier you adjust to this new epoch and make the necessary conversions and alterations to your lifestyle, the better you will fare. A new ENERGY STAR qualified home, while a great improvement over traditional new homes, will simply not do. A new home, like the passive solar home I have built that is directly heated by the sun, is not just energy star efficient, it is energy super nova efficient.

Understandably, most of us that can afford a home must live in or buy existing homes due to our jobs and lifestyles. However, if you are able to build or buy a new home and it is not an energy super nova, you are buying obsolescence. Every day crude oil goes up $1.00 a barrell, the story or this solar house gets better. This passive solar home costs 70% less to heat than a traditional ENERGY STAR qualified home.

For those who look askance at these numbers, you should be aware that this is not an experimental home. Bruce Brownell, the solar engineer who created the passive solar heating system of the home I designed, has been building and improving passive solar home systems for 30 years. Many people I speak to do not understand this passive solar system at all, and even when they do, many of them simply don’t believe it works.


A Real Example of Solar Energy Savings

Not to put too fine of a point on it, on Dec. 1, 2007 it was 17 degrees outside at 8:00 AM in Fly Creek, NY. The auxiliary heat provided by our state-of-the-art propane Baxi Luna 3 boiler cycles on at 68.5 degrees and off at 68.7 degrees. In our home at that time the thermostat read 68.7 degrees, so the Baxi unit must have recently cycled off. It was partially sunny all day. By 1:30 PM (five and a half hours later) the thermostat read 74 degrees and the temperature outside was 19 degrees. By 5 PM it was 11 degrees outside and the thermostat read 68.5 degrees so the propane Baxi boiler turned on again.

In a day of partial sun when it was 19 degrees, we used no energy to heat our 4000 sq. ft. home for 9 hours. If it would have been sunny all day, the home would have heated up to 75 or 76 degrees and more heat would have been stored in the concrete slab thermal battery. The combined higher room temperature and warmer slab would have slowed down the fall in temperature in our home another 2 hours or so, thereby delaying the Baxi boiler from starting until about 7PM, enabling us to use no energy to heat our home for about 11 hours.


Your Increasing Energy Costs Over Time

In our area, for the 2007/2008 heating season you can expect annual heat costs to run about $3000-$4000 for a 2000 - 2500 sq. ft. traditionally built home and electric to run about $1800 for a rough combined annual total of about $5000 - $6000.

In a little over five years, as crude prices will likely blow well past $200 a barrel, you may be paying over $12,000 for your combined heat and electric. Even if you are only in the 20% tax bracket, you will have to earn $15,000 a year to be left with the $12,000 for those two costs alone before you begin to pay for anything else: before health insurance; before the car payment; before gasoline, before the mortgage; before telephone & cable or satellite; before food; before life. Will your income keep up with these two increases that are far and away outpacing inflation?


Beyond Ourselves

Creating these energy super nova passive solar homes and driving energy efficient cars is not solely about affordability for the owner, although that accounts for the lion’s share of interest in them. The concerns in ever widening circles are: Reducing personal energy costs; Reducing our dependence on oil; Restarting a housing boom into the foreseeable future; Rebuilding America one house at a time; Increasing sustainable living lifestyles; Diminishing the demand for oil as a source of geopolitical tension.


To learn about the Kosmer Solar House and how it works, please click one of the Solar Links below.