The south side The southeast corner
Photographs of the side facing the winter sun

Blairsville, Georgia

What was needed:
The clients had definite ideas about what they wanted on their south facing lot with a beautiful mountain view. They wanted to see that view, and have the best house they could afford. They wanted space for his motorcycle collection and her quilting equipment and supplies.

The first step:
A trip to the property helped me to see something the clients had missed. They had never heard of passive solar homes, and they didn't know their property was absolutely perfect for one. Measurements of the slope and the solar angles were recorded.

The south view
The mountain view to the south

I asked them if they had ever heard of passive solar homes. Not really. They were concerned it would look weird or get in the way of the view. I explained that no, passive solar design would help them have a better view without making the house uncomfortable from the summer sun. It would reduce heating and cooling costs. They wanted a tall gable of glass facing the view to the south. I asked them if they wanted to see more sun and sky, or more mountains. They wanted more mountains. Perfect. I said we could remove the tall parts of the gable glass, and replace it with more eye level glass, and this would increase the view, while the roof would shade all of this glass in the summer. They liked this idea. I started planning my second passive solar home.

The view form the living room
The view of the mountains from inside

The plan included lots of south facing glass with the roof overhang positioned to completely shade it all from May 1- August 12. But in December and January the warm winter sun would flood inside and heat up their house for free. To protect the house from the cold winter winds, the north side was partially covered with ground. The glass was reduced on the east and west sides to keep the house cooler in the summer.

All retirement homes should be designed to be accessible. This home was designed to be very easy to convert to wheelchair use if needed.

How much did these passive solar features add to the house. $0. In fact they helped us reduce costs. How much energy did they save? Compared to other typical homes of the same size, this one uses much less energy. The clients tell me that the heat never runs when the sun is shining, no matter how cold it is outside. They love their energy efficient home. In fact they became green proponents, doing research and adding other ideas to the home.

Years later I received a phone call. While they were out, lightning struck the house and it burned to the ground. They lost everything. We sat down and discussed the opportunity they now had, if there was anything they would have done differently, we can do it now. The plans were safe in my computer, and we made only two changes, and the home was rebuilt, this time with state of the art lightning protection.

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