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Solstice LivingHome owners living in sun-inspired homes are aware of the changing seasons through variable light and sun patterns in their home. When asked what they like best about their sun-inspired home, Pam and Paul replied:

“The gorgeous sunlight and open plan for relaxed living; view of our pond – significantly reduced energy bills.”
This Fall Equinox E-newsletter includes:2011 Fall Solstice
  • Planning a sun-inspired home
  • Involving a builder sooner rather than later
  • Comparing a “Sun-Inspired House” to a “Passive House”
  • Getting two Review Sets for the price of one!
  • Hearing from Debbie, our architect

Nature's CornerIt’s refreshing to hear about construction success stories during the repressed economic times.  While some clients have decided to put construction on hold, others are building now to take advantage of lower interest rates and prices.

In addition, some are completing the Create-A-SunPlan process a year or more before the start of construction.  When their existing home sells, they will be ready to build.

Sun-inspired home owners are not only conservative when it comes to energy, but equally conservative with their money. They’ve saved a long time for the extra large down payment required when financing a home today. Sun Plans’ affordable architectural design fees (about half that of a realtor’s fee built into purchasing a home) allow for hard earned money to be spent on other features of a home.

How Sun Plans can help save you money

The goal of the sun-inspired design services is to help the home owner save money that exceeds the Sun Plans’ architectural design fee in several ways:

  • A right-sized home can easily save 200 s.f. ($20,000+ in construction costs).
  • A right-shaped sun-inspired home can save 30% on both the heating and cooling bill (thousands of dollars over the life of a home).
  • A well-insulated home with a right-sized HVAC system and built to Energy Star standards can easily save another 30% on energy bills (more savings).
  • Often the heating and cooling loads are so low that thousands can be saved on installing smaller and simpler heating and cooling systems alone.
  • A home built to Passive House standards can save another 30%.
  • A net zero home can result in no or below zero energy use!

(The above list is in order of cost-effectiveness for most locations.)

Sun Plans recommends getting a general contractor (or building consultant for those who plan to build themselves) on board as early as possible as good builders are not always easy to come by.  Karen, who is building a Canyon View Sun Plan in Washington praises her builder:

“Our contractor…has been fantastic to work with… I think it is a mark of a good business when he has plenty of work scheduled in this economy….”

Tom who is building a Lakeside Sunrise in Pennsylvania told us yesterday:

“Our contractor is one of world’s nicest, smartest people, and that has made all of the difference!”


Thinking of building the home yourselves? While it does involve a lot more time and comes with greater risks, some Sun Plans homeowners thrive in the intensive challenge.  And there are additional services that Sun Plans can provide for those customers who are creating or adapting a Sun Plan.  The services that we provide are tailored to each customer.

With the introduction of the “Passive House” into the U.S., it’s only natural to be confused with the phrase and wonder how it compares to a passive solar house, such as a Sun Plan. A sun-inspired house has always been a passive solar house, but did you know that it can be a “Passive House”?

Read more about how a Sun Plan can be built to Passive House standards

RISE house Designed with the Create-A-SunPlan process, what will be known as the RISE house on the website is about to begin construction in West Virginia.

Total Energy Cost: $60/month (estimated, all electric with propane for cooking), for more details, see above “Comparing a Sun-Inspired House to a Passive House”

Choosing the smallest living area that comfortably houses the family’s activities is always a good place to start in planning a low energy home.  Every square foot saved in space equates to both initial construction cost savings and long-term energy savings. Sun Plans can assist in sorting through the family’s priorities and requirements. It is possible to balance exterior attractiveness, views of nature, space-saving floor plans, right-sized exterior living spaces and delightful interiors with energy savings!

Sun Plans’ clients have the option of choosing their level of energy standard. For instance, on the RISE home, the owners could choose to meet the Passive House standard by requesting that their builder and the insulation subcontractors be held to a high level of accountability on the air tightness, but achieving that low level of infiltration may be difficult.  Often owners may accept that $17/month is low enough for heating and cooling without taking additional extreme measures.

Sun Plans welcomes the opportunity create a sun-inspired home design for you!

Read more about Create-A-SunPlan services!

ReviewSetIconIf time does not allow for creating a new sun-inspired home, selecting a pre-designed Sun Plan may be more appropriate. It’s common to narrow the search down to two possible designs.

If you crave technical details, the Review Set will be invaluable.
Study Plans that show the floor plans with furniture (and without the construction notes) are included with Review Set orders, making it easy to visualize how your own furniture can fit in the spaces.

Until the end of September, buy one Review Set and get one of equal or lesser value for free!

Simply purchase one Review Set and respond to the automated email with the name of the desired free Sun Plan. The drawings in PDF format will then be delivered electronically.
(As always, the Review Set price is deductible from future orders of Construction Prints or CAD Files of any Sun Plan – even if you change to a completely different Sun Plan.)

Visit the Sun Plans’ Secure Online Store!

SunPlansLogo with DRC“Someone told me the other day that I seemed really happy.  When I paused to think about why that may be, I realized that simultaneously both my family and clients came to mind.  The homes that I help design begin to feel like family and clients make that possible. I am grateful that so many people have placed their trust and confidence in my ability to assist them in creating something that is such an important part of their lives.”

We hope that you enjoy reading the comments from the question asked of the sun-inspired home owners who have placed their trust in Sun Plans:

“What do you like best about your sun-inspired home?”

Nathan, living in the Aurora Lights home surrounded by trees that do not block the sun, reports: Sun Plans tree house living

“Very comfortable, low energy requirements, great view. It is like living in a tree house with big windows.”

Thanks for visiting with us!
If you would like to receive news from Sun Plans more frequently, please visit the Sun Plans Facebook page.

Equinox_Homestead_Summer 3

Stay Cool with Shade-Inspired House Designs!

In the heat of the summer, it’s only natural to wonder about staying cool in passive solar homes. In this e-newsletter we share cooling strategies integrated into sun-inspired house designs as well as comments from Sun Plans’ home owners.

We hope that you enjoy the shade-inspired home features!Sun-inspired fun

This Summer Solstice E-newsletter includes:

  • Follow Sun Plans on Facebook
  • Shade-inspired Cooling Strategies for Sun-Inspired Homes
  • News and Comments from Home Owners
  • The Sun-Inspired House E-book and Supplement Released!
  • New sun-inspired house designs
SUNPLANS-WelcomeIMG2 copyThe intent of our Sun Plans Facebook page is to allow you to see and hear about Sun Plans through photos and comments more frequently than you do with our E-newsletters.  Sun Plans’ homeowners may post photos and comments about their sun-inspired home that will be readily available.

Visit Sun Plans’ on Facebook now

If you have specific questions about our plans and services, it is preferred that you use the Contact Us form on our website which is designed to allow you to provide more information than is typically shared on Facebook.

Summer Shade Southern CypressOrientation of the South Wall: Custom Energy Specs that are a part of sun-inspired home designs include recommending an orientation as part of the provided services. In conjunction with the latitude, climate, details of each plan and the customer’s preferences, a recommended orientation is provided.  Orienting the home a little to the southeast so that the south wall of home is in the shade by mid-afternoon in summer is a common recommendation that results in little winter heating penalty.
(The green house at the top of the newsletter shows the entire south wall of the home in shade late in the afternoon as would be the case with a slight easterly orientation.)

South Overhang Length: Ideally, overhang lengths should allow for full sun in the winter from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the Winter Solstice and full shade on the Summer Solstice during the same time period. This varies based on latitude, climates and the particular roof to wall overhang detail as well as wall and window heights of each design.
(The photo here shows the shade line for a home in a warm climate extending past the bottom of the window to allow for an extended shading season in summer.)

Casement and Shaded Porch 2Shade east and west windows:  Porches and trees placed on the east and west sides of homes keep the intensive morning and afternoon sun off of both the glass and the house!
(Note the shade line across this west-facing porch.)

Passive Cooling:  Where the night temperatures drop below 68 degrees F, some home owners find passive cooling desirable in summer – or at least during late spring and early fall with some of the following window strategies:

– Windows and doors on opposite sides of rooms increase cross breezes
– Casement windows have a greater operable area when open AND scoop air with out-swinging windows which increases air flow.
– Opening windows on both upper and lower floors (including daylight basements) increases the stack effect of passive cooling which again increases air flow.
(The photo above shows a casement window open 90 degrees to the wall.)

The Sun-Inspired House
(including the new electronic PDF version) has much more information about sun-inspired design.

The Sun Inspired House E-book is now available, along with the supplementary document. Together, the electronic books contain over 400 pages and over 100 home designs in PDF format!

The E-books hold the same combination of educational content and house plan ideas, but are more environmentally friendly with no paper or shipping. They can be read with any PDF reader on desktops, tablets or smart phones and the documents are delivered electronically.

Purchase The Sun-Inspired House E-book with Supplement today through our Secure Online Store!

Below we share comments about designs in progress as well as under construction or recently completed.

NaturesCornerChimneysSandy is building the Nature’s Corner design and  tells us about how cool the house is as a result of the daylight cooling chimney in the middle of the home to let in light and let out hot air. On the exterior it resembles other chimneys as can be seen on this north side photo.

“…the ventilation chimney works all on its own. Yesterday was a scorcher…Several of the workers and I went into the house…the temperature difference was amazing….I could feel the breeze coming in from the open doors and from the basement. When I commented on it, one of the workers pointed at the exhaust chimney…you could feel it working. Thank you.”

NorthernSunAndyAndy built a version of the Northern Sun by modifying our CAD Files:

” For the last two years, I’ve generated about 15-32% more than I’ve consumed of electricity.”

Andy suggests reminding subcontractors to keep roof penetrations to a minimum on south-facing roofs where photovoltaic panels may be added.

Jim sent us a photo of his Northern Sun (NorthernSunJimwhich he also adapted from our CAD files) which shows his shade line in late April right before they were moved in:

“Major milestone last Thursday… we went on line with 4.4 kW of solar power.  You can also see in the photo that our stucco is now complete also.  The solar hot water is going in this week.”

Equinox_Homestead_Summer 4Mike and family just moved into their Equinox Homestead.

“We really like our new home, as do folks who drop by to check it out.”

He also told us about some frustrating construction experiences so a healthy dose of patience is sometimes in order while building.

In an Islander 6, Ben’s building inspector let themIslander6-Ben 2 move in before construction was finished:

“As so often happens in owner-builder jobs, we’ve moved in before completion! (The colors are not great in these pics, so don’t be shocked.)”

Sun Plans thinks the colors look great and looks forward to seeing the completed exterior.

Rita and Sean’s custom home is being designed. They have passive cooling high on their priority list so we have designed in a long clerestory above a second floor loft to allow in light and increase air flow with operable windows.

Thanks to our clients who have made these new plans possible by commissioning us to adapt these designs to fit their life-style, we can now share them with others!  The Custom Energy Specs with orders for Construction Prints or CAD Files come with recommendations for possible changes to adapt the home to other climates.

French_Cowgirl_3_overview-photo 2The French Cowgirl 3 has its extra bedrooms below in the sunny ground floor instead of up where they are less protected from extreme temperatures. The tower, however still provides a place for occasional second floor sleeping or sunset viewing.  With so many options for living on various levels, this home lives like a much larger home than its small footprint might initially portray.  Both the back, west sunset porch and the east front porch provide outdoor living areas that also expand the livability of the home. Exterior steps from both porches lead down to the lower, garden-like south patio that can be terraced with a variety of plants.

The Sunshine 5 is super sunny and comfortable with the extra high concrete mass in both the walls and floors which keep inside temperatures steady year-round.  A cozy corner sun room remains warm long into the winter evening with the west-facing glass. In summer, the west windows can stay open to prevent overheating and serve as a screened porch while the large north front porch receives maximum breezes with 3 sides open.  Craftsman touches in the front truss, window details and large stone-based columns adorn this simple, yet very low-energy home.

The compact Moorhaus Cottage 3 features clean-lined simplicity and the welcoming north-facing entry adds character with minimum costs. Its heavy timbers and craftsman-style knee braces are just one of many “quality over quantity” features of this passive solar home that can blend with the woods in rural areas as well as a smaller lot within a city neighborhood.

Visit our entire selection of pre-designed Sun Plans to Select a Sun Plan
Look at the custom changes process toAdapt a Sun Plan
View the custom design process to Create a Sun Plan

October 2018
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