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It's all about choices when you decide to build your next home. From craftsman to colonial, what you choose for your home says a lot about you.

As energy prices rise and concern over the environment touches home for many Americans, one choice is gaining popularity. And that is passive solar homes.

They do not require any fancy photovoltaic panels, inverters, or batteries. It is simply the design of your home that will bring you energy savings.

Passive solar homes harness the power of the sun. They are designed to collect, store, and distribute solar energy. And they do this through strategically placed south-facing windows (otherwise known as the aperture), the use of thermal mass, absorbers, proper distribution of heat, and of course controlling the amount of sun and heat that actually enters the home.

Let's break those five elements down a little further.

By having lots of windows facing south, you are enabling your home to capture optimal solar heat.

Once the heat is captured, it must be absorbed. Brick walls or slab floors covered in tile (an exposed surface) work their magic by absorbing the natural energy.

Then "thermal mass" is what stores the energy. These are the materials below the surface.

Next, the solar heat must be distributed to other areas of the home. Many homeowners choose to use ductwork, vents, and fans.

And finally, the home must work to minimize heat during the super hot summer months. This can be done through awnings, fans, and shades.

How passive solar works may not be important to you, but the savings you'll see in your electric bill will be.

Be sure to talk to your builder or general contractor about passive solar house plans and what options are available.

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