High Quality, Low Energy Requirement Passive Solar Homes
Low Energy Homes
In the Foothills of the Adirondacks
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Askeed Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Here you will find the answers to some questions you may have.

What is passive solar? 

There are 3 major components to the "Low Energy Requirement Home" system:

  1. A six-sided performance R38 insulation envelope. It consists of 2 separate layers of 2" thick Thermax (a foil covered urethane) with joints staggered and foil taped. This results in a structure that needs less than one-seventh the energy of the typical new house.
    Passive Solar
  2. The long house wall orientated south with more glass south (not a huge amount) and less glass in the north wall.
    Passive Solar
  3. The excess winter sunny day input (which could result in over heating) justifies an air-integrated heavy mass storage system. A fan moves air from the higher house areas, down an airshaft through high capacity MERV 8 filters, and through an extensive grid of air pipes located in mass storage consisting of 12" of concrete under the lowest floor.

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How to site my passive solar house?

You will need to determine south (check your shadow at noon-1pm fast time- to determine solar south) and place the structure at least 100' from your south property line so you can clear an arc from the trees that would shade you.

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Why don't you follow the common design parameters of direct gain; shades and shutters, south over hangs, air-lock entries, etc.?

Our superior six-sided performance R38 insulation envelope combined with modern windows negate that thinking- it is simple physics. You simply live in the house-passive solar works. We never have adhered to the old traditional rules in our designs.

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What is "R" value?

R stands for "resistance" to energy flow- it doesn't relate to hot or cold or direction. Crudely 1" of wood equals 1R. The desired R value would be the one with the lowest cost per performance R (not claim)- urethane is the clear winner.

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Aren't your homes too tight?

A key component of our energy efficiency is our sealed envelope which is many times tighter than a typical new homes and will blower door test at 0.2 air changes at 50 pascals. We have no interior combustion- no gas appliances allowed, airtight wood stoves are vented outside and a fan moves all interior house air 3 times an hour through high capacity MERV 8 filters. Most importantly, we are totally sealed from moisture with no dampness and not needing any humidifiers or dehumidifiers.

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Are these homes proven?

Over 300 families and 1000 people occupy Low Energy Requirement Homes, some for more than 20 years. There are satisfied customers everywhere, which is our strongest attribute. They report an unparalleled level of human comfort- you are never cold. Families have fewer colds, sore throats, etc. as the interior relative humidity stays at 40-45% all winter.

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Do you need backup heat or cooling?

You don't need a furnace to supply the small amount of heat needed as backup. Often a zone is taken from your domestic hot water supply to supply heat to a coil (like your car radiator) in the airshaft, heating the air going to the mass, then the house. We have the ability to store "heat or cool" using off-peak rates. You never feel any difference with interior temperatures varying 3-4 F in 24 hours. Likewise cooling can be added in small amounts, first to the mass. Ground Source Heat Pumps are another viable choice as they easily provide all heat, hot water and air-condition.

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What other attributes are there?

  • Houses can be left without heat in the winter and will never freeze.
  • There is no maintenance (1 hr./year) to the solar system.
  • The sun never sent one of our houses a bill.
    • All featured house plans have been lived in and refined. They incorporate:
    • open daylighted spaces-cathedral ceilings-roof windows
    • wheelchair access at main floor
    • 3' doorways wherever possible
    • wider hallways
    • deeper closets
    • easy stairs
    • minimum 12'x12' bedrooms
    • concentration on design of entry, half bath/laundry, pantry and kitchen where 80% of activity occurs

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What if we already have our land and house plans?

If you have your land and house plans:

  • Site visit for advise on house placement and orientation (up to 100 mile)
  • Suggest minor changes to floor plans for best solar utilization
  • Advice on the best choices of many ways to achieve the greatest energy efficiency at you site.
  • List of recommended materials:
  • ground membrane choices*
  • special materials" foil tape, caulk, nails, etc.*
  • insulation choices
  • window and door types and brands
  • airshafts and filtering systems
  • heating and cooling systems- integrated heavy mass info
    misc. items specific to you case
  • You will receive a written report with specific advice including lists of materials, rules to follow and general advise

* Available by mail order with specific advise

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Passive Solar Homes

Home | Low Energy Homes | FAQ's | Contact Us
Adirondack Alternate Energy
98 Northville Road
Edinburg, NY  12134
Phone: (518) 863-4338
Fax: (518) 863-4192
E-Mail: aaeinc@frontiernet.net
We're Located in the Foothills of the Adirondacks


  • American Solar Energy Society
  • Northeast Sustainable Energy Association

Copyright Adirondack Alternate Energy. All rights reserved. This site was created by Empire Web Pages on October 11, 1999. This page  was most recently updated on August 05, 2014.

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