Solar Energy: Passive and Free!

by Tammy Taylor

It seems being environmentally friendly is all the rage now but for some reason I was bitten by the environmental bug years before it became the thing to do.  I was using my own reusable bags well before it was fashionable.  It’s funny the strange looks I received from clerks when I asked them to place my purchases into my own canvas bag.  I used to joke with my husband that if I could get a nickle for every time the puzzled cashier exclaimed “are you SURE??” that I could pay off all our bills!  Because I naturally have such a “tread softly on the earth” mindset it was primary in my mind when we built our home and we incorporated many energy efficiency features as well as passive solar features into its construction.  But not everyone is in the building phase of their home so I thought I’d pass on some good news – passive solar energy can be very low cost and many times doesn’t cost a dime!

Passive Solar Blue Sky Barn Taylor-Made Ranch (640x480)

We’ve already discussed solar cooking here, and the use of inexpensive tube-style skylights here, but  one of the easiest no-cost ways to use solar energy in your home is with the use of your window coverings.  In the warmer months you can close your drapes to cover those heat-producing windows and keep that heat from coming into your home.  In the cooler months the opposite is  true – open up those coverings and let the warming sun come through!

Passive Solar Windows Sun Taylor-Made Ranch(640x480)

You can also use your windows to allow natural light into a room.  If you have an open floorplan even better, light spills into larger areas of your home.  We have 2″ blinds as our main window coverings and heavy curtains/valances for the decorative covering and for cold-weather closing.  That way we can easily open and close the blinds to suit the conditions.  Since we have an open floorplan actual electrical lights are not even needed until nightfall.

Passive Solar Windows (640x480)

One of my favorite ways to use solar energy is with my solar clothes dryer.  😉  We own a nice gas-powered dryer but I don’t use it – I love to hang our clothes outside.  The delightful aroma that is imparted into the fabric cannot be duplicated.  Oddly enough this has turned into one of my more pleasant chores, standing under that beautiful blue Texas sky listening to the chatter of the birds around me as I hang our clothes out to dry.  I somehow feel a closeness with my grandmother as I do this chore, remembering how I would stand next to her as a child and hand her the clothes to go on the line.  Sweet memories…

Passive Solar Laundry (640x480)

If you want to dive even deeper into solar energy there are many other ways to use the sun for heating water, generating electricity, or recharging portable electronics.  The web is full of ideas and the technology is getting less expensive all the time.   It’s easy to use the sun’s energy!

~TMR~

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18 thoughts on “Solar Energy: Passive and Free!

  1. angi

    I love having my curtians open to let the light in. We were just talking about hanging our laundry. We used to, but then we moved and even thought we have a clothes line I just couldn’t get it together. But I’m determined to hang our clothes this summer, for sure.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Hanging the laundry is one of my favorite chores, just for the childhood memories with my grandmother that it sparks. And that sunshine smell on the clothes? Wonderful! ~TMR~

      Reply
  2. Jenny

    I really appreciate what you said about the draperies! It is so true. In our first home I made a pair of pinch pleats that we frequently opened and closed to help control the temperature. We’re looking forward to using our clothesline as soon as we can get one made. Thanks again for linking up to the HomeAcre Hop. Great post!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      It’s easy to help control the temps using your drapes. But I’ll admit, my “solar clothes dryer” is my absolute favorite way to use the sun’s energy. So relaxing for me. ~TMR~

      Reply
  3. Heidi Tijssen

    I’v lined my curtains with a special light excluding lining. In winter it can also keep out damp draughts (which are many in our old, ramsackle house). That same dampness makes a dryer a need. I know, our grandmothers did without, but they were bent with reumatism and I don’t think that’s worth it. But when the sun is shining, nothing better than a clothes line. Even when it is freezing cold!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I happen to agree with you – nothing better than a clothes line when the sun in shining! Each family has their own needs and everything won’t work for every family, but it’s easy to incorporate some of the passive solar concept in almost every home – we all do what we can. Thanks for stopping by Heidi! ~TMR~

      Reply
  4. Dada Drew

    Yes, the environment friendly solar energy bug, I have that one too. I pay a fortune to the power company. I am always looking for ways to save. Your other post about saving electricity had some great ideas as well as this one.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Every little bit helps, Dada Drew! It’s surprising how much impact can be made using only several baby steps! Thanks for your comment. ~TMR~

      Reply
  5. Barb @ A Life in Balance

    I love hanging my clothes outside! My dh built a fabulous clothesline about 2 years ago. Since we only use room a/c in the bedrooms, I make sure to keep the curtains closed during the day to keep the heat out during the summer. Thanks for linking up at Fabulously Frugal Thursday!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Gotta love that there are absolutely FREE ways to use solar energy in almost every home! ~TMR~

      Reply
  6. TheFrugal Exerciser

    I open all of the shades to let the sun in on Friday. Our boiler went out Thursday night and it was cold in the house. Luckily, it was sunny in Chicago. I want to go off the grid and have solar energy for my home but it’s too expensive.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Going off grid can be expensive, but luckily there are things we can do that are no cost at all. Another tip I use is mirror placement. You can place a large mirror in a location that will receive the light from outside and reflect it back into the interior of the house. I did that with a large mirror we made out of barn wood (you can see the mirror here —> http://bit.ly/146JwtW ) Reducing your energy consumption has become very easy as well with the new energy efficient light bulbs and Energy Star appliances. There are always little things we can do! Thanks for your comment. ~TMR~

      Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Aw, thanks Molly! I love our bedroom furniture too, and I love, love, LOVE the quilt on our bed, handmade by my grandmother. Thanks for stopping by. ~TMR~

      Reply
  7. Kristi

    I grew up in a house where the main heat souce was passive solar, with a wood stove for back-up. (My parents have since switched the wood stove to a pellet stove.) The house is built into a hillside, leaving only the south side exposed.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Kristi – from what I’ve read, homes dug into a hillside with only the south side exposed like your parents had are the ULTIMATE in energy efficiency. How very cool that you grew up in that house! I’ll bet their energy bills were almost non existent, and how many folks wouldn’t love to be in THAT position… ~TMR~

      Reply
  8. Joan @ The Chicken Mama

    I love hanging my clothes out on the line – one of the joys of summer around here! The first time I can hang them out after a long cold winter is cause for celebration. Since we’ve got snow in the forecast, I guess I won’t be celebrating on wash day this week 🙁

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Joan – we’re pretty lucky to be in Texas, I’m able to hang clothes outside all year. It takes a little longer to dry in the cold weather but as long as the sun is out everything dries ok. On longer stretches of sunless or rainy days I use my fold-out racks inside. In the winter it has the added benefit of adding humidity to the dry winter air inside. My dryer hasn’t even been turned on in years. LOL ~TMR~

      Reply

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