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Publication Title | Passive Solar: Glass and Glazing

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Above: Passive Solar home of Bob and Mary Donlan in the hills above Carbondale, Colorado Photo by Chrissy Leonard

Passive Solar:

Glass and Glazing Scott Ely

© 1992 Scott Ely

Picture yourself staring calmly out a large window at the snow-capped peaks or the roaring ocean. The

light of day brightens the room. It's cold outside, but the sunlight shines in, warming your bones. Your dog is launched on the carpet. You don't need to explain passive solar gain to him!

Harnessing the sun’s light and heat is a clean, simple, and natural way to control the light and temperature in our homes. Passive solar design entails the arrangement of basic building materials to maximize the sun's energy. Glazing describes any material which allows sunlight to pass through it while retaining a certain amount of heat.

26 Home Power #30 • August / September 1992

Designing with glass and glazing provides our source of natural light and heat, and also a means for ventilation, moisture control, privacy, views, and outdoor access.

Understanding the Solar Spectrum and Heat Transfer

To make good choices on glazings, you need to understand a bit about light and heat. The sunlight that strikes the Earth is comprised of a variety of wavelengths. Ultraviolet (UV) light is short wavelength light (5–400 nanometers) and is invisible to our eyes. UV light comprises about 2% of the solar spectrum. Visible light is the light you see. It is light of medium wavelength (400–800 nm) and accounts for around 49% of the spectrum. Finally, infrared radiation (light in the form of heat) has long wavelength (800–1000 nm) and makes up most of the remaining 49% of the spectrum.

Different glazings will selectively transmit, absorb, and reflect the various components of the solar spectrum. For example, controlling ultraviolet light can save carpet, fabrics, and furnishings from fading. Likewise, reducing glare (via reflection or tinting) is helpful in the workplace. By allowing the transmission of visible, or natural, light you can save many watts of artificial light. But perhaps the greatest effect on human comfort levels is determined by infrared heat transfer. By specifying the right type of glass, you may choose to trap the infrared heat for warmth, or reflect the infrared heat to prevent warming.

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