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They’re Building A Passive Solar Home: Here’s How It Works

This is the story of Derek and Hannah‘s passive solar design home that they are building in Arizona. It’s not a tiny house, it’s more of a small house, but you can also use the same principles when building your own tiny, small, or even large house.

Anyway, before all of this, they started out with a tiny house. And now several years later they’re getting to design and build their dream home with passive solar design that will save them thousands and thousands of dollars on utility bills every single year. All because of a well-thought design! See and learn how they did it in the video explanation below.

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How They’re House Design Will Save Them Thousands of Dollars per Year

Did you notice the large overhangs in the design yet? That’s part of the thoughtful design process that keeps the windows (and interior) under shade.

Their home is also designed in a way where there are basically no windows facing the sun all day. Since they’re in Arizona, this is super important because it really keeps the heat out.

Whenever you design/build your house, you can have an architect or designer try to simulate these scenarios based on your location. Pretty smart, right?

Can you imagine how much energy can be saved if more homes were designed this thoughtfully?

Big congrats (and high fives) to @highcarbhannah and @handeeman.co for getting to this point!

VIDEO – How Our House Design Will Save Us $1000s (a great explanation of passive solar house designs)

VIDEO – Living off-grid: what I eat in a day

What do you think? Do you understand how passive solar works now?


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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Gail Van Luvanee
    June 8, 2020, 3:16 am

    I’m glad that people are starting to rediscover Passive Solar designs. Passive solar designs pertain to all environments and sites. I learned it in my early years in architectural college but for some reason designers lost the concept.

    • Alex
      June 8, 2020, 12:13 pm

      Me too, thanks, Gail! Most developers can care less about it, too…

  • Nancy M
    June 8, 2020, 1:59 pm

    My father built our home back in 1953 that had overhangs to keep sun out in the summer, but brought sun in during the winter. He was way ahead of his time. He was not an architect, nor a builder, but I have never seen another house so well designed. It had massive amounts of built-in storage, and an extremely efficient plumbing system. I doubt anyone could top his design, even today! It had three bedrooms, two baths, a relatively small footprint, and housed our family of five to eight comfortably. (Some were away at college a good bit of the year.). It still amazes me at how poorly designed most houses are today! The only houses that come close to being as efficient as my father’s design are THOW’s! Probably part of why I like tiny houses so much! Lol!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 8, 2020, 2:00 pm

      That’s so amazing Nancy! I wish we could have seen it.

  • CJ Burlingame
    June 8, 2020, 4:59 pm

    Literally, it should cost no more to build a house using the basic pricipals of passive solar. In Arizona and generally in the south, you should always be aware of the heat gain on the west side of your house in the afternoon in the summer. The best way is to have trees that block the afternoon sun from baking your walls and windows. Also consider more insulation. Another choice would be a type of vertical screen that would block the direct sun but still allow a fair amount of light. A lot of people place their garage on the west if they are planning a home. If you are buying an existing home try to find one with the garage on the west or trees. Best combination is a garage on the west with trees protecting the west wall of the garage.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 9, 2020, 2:02 pm

      Such great ideas.

  • Tim
    June 19, 2020, 12:57 am


  • Joyce Rader
    June 20, 2021, 2:46 pm

    Without viewing the video I would like to comment on the materials used. Look into the type and thickness of your construction material. Indians used rock and adobe to help keep out the heat and the interior stayed cooler. I live in a home with concrete blocks that also keep out the heat if you keep your windows closed during the day then open the windows at night to let in cooler air. I have heard of cob and straw bale construction as well as very thick logs that can perform similar purpose. In the south old plantations used elevation with windows up high to circulate the air by allowing lower windows to let air in and the higher ones to let hot air out for the purpose of cooling the home. Just a few things to consider.

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