I think that home attached sunspaces may be the most cost effective and sensible approach to adding solar to your house — attached sunspaces offer:
Space heating for the house
Additional living space that can be very pleasant
A place to grow plants
A place to hang the laundry for solar drying
A good place to locate a solar water heater
While direct gain to the house through south facing windows can be an effective solar heating scheme, the direct gain approach has the not so good feature of quite a bit of heat loss on cloudy days and at night through the large windows. Sunspaces allow you to harvest the same heat through their large, south facing glazing, but the susnpace can be closed off from the house at night or on cloudy days to avoid the big glazing heat losss.
A nice sunspace
Compared to traditional active solar space heating (with collectors, tanks, pumps, …) sunspaces can be better looking and more cost effective (when you consider all of the benefits).
While having a sunspace to hang laundry in bad winter weather may seem like a small thing, clothes dryers are are the largest single electricity use in many homes — on average about 900 KWH a year! Even more when you consider that the dryer is pulling in cold outside air as it vents its hot air outside. The sunspace gives you a good, sheltered, efficient place to dry clothes.
Sunspaces make a good, protected enviroment to add a solar water heater to — the water heater will be more efficient because it does not see outside temperatures, and may need less or no freeze protection.
I’ve got a section on Sunspaces, but it has few examples of good, attached sunspaces used as described above.
Sooooooooooooooo, I would REALLY like to hear from folks with sunspaces — how well do they work for you? What’s good? What’s bad? What do you consider good design features?
A writeup on your sunspace with lots of pictures would make my whole week!
Nick’s multi-story solar space heating sun space
Or, if you have some thoughts, experiences, or questions on sunspaces, how about passing them on in a Comment below.