Located in Blue Hill, Maine, this passive solar house was a design-build project by Sealander Architects.

The primary driver of the house form was its function. It is a home for a single woman who enjoys art and crafts. The layout, room sizes, and furniture all support the particular lifestyle she relayed to us.

Solar Orientation

A second driver was solar orientation. We shared an interest in making use of passive solar design techniques. The major technique was in facing the house to the south. The vast majority of windows, and most of the window area, faces south. Northern windows are few and small. Rooms that would be occupied most frequently have the most southerly exposures. We also incorporated large southern overhangs at windows to cut down on summer heating.

While the generous south glazing does contribute to thermal efficiency from solar gain in the winter, we now realize this house is overglazed for the climate. In other words, from a pure energy-efficiency viewpoint, buildings in our climate have a glazing area sweet spot, which this house exceeds.

Heating System

We also employed thermal capacitance. The house is a slab on grade, which is well-insulated. The slab is heated hydronically, developing a large thermal capacitance that provides even and comfortable heating.

The heating system is a high-efficiency propane-fired boiler. A hydronic solar panel provides domestic hot water, stored in a tank connected to the main heating system.