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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.

PD-panelized-masonry wood stove
In October, a modular version of the Prairie Dog 2 was set on the land and two months later the home owners moved in! 

If there is a modular company within 500 miles of your land , then consider the time and cost savings (estimated to be around 10%) of partial construction in a plant or factory.  Any SunPlan can take advantage of this.   Why not send a PDF version of a SunPlans Review Set for pricing from a modular company along with submitting one to your local builder. Perhaps they can jointly build your home for the best of both worlds.

All American Homes that serves the mid-west to the northeast constructed this home in Indiana by using the design and copyright release purchased from Sun Plans.  They modified the design to fit their personal construction methods and made a few other changes for the client at the same time such as adding a large masonry wood stove to replace some of the floor mass to store the sun’s heat.  The home was finished on-site by Easy Living Homes in Indiana and we thank them for sharing photos.  Read more about the Prairie Dog 2.

(As with all SunPlans, it is still recommended to hire a third party home energy rater to assure that proper attention is given to the energy detailing during construction as is found in our plans and specs, and then tested to prove the homes performance. Sun Plans’ clients find that the best builders actually encourage this third party verification.)

The following newly added house plans reflect common trends in both initial construction cost savings and long term energy cost savings as clients ask us to customize homes for them in which they can comfortably spend the rest of their lives. Building down instead of up, increasing exterior wall thickness, tucking the garage into the basement and including all of the main spaces that our client’s family will use daily on one level – or right-sizing the home for their needs. They also feature right-sized porches with a craftsman style exterior, but the sky is the limit when adapting one for you. These plans all happen to be north-facing.

Conservation Showhome

First Floor 1544 s.f.

Daylight Basement (Finished) 1236 s.f.

Basement (Unfinished) 284 s.f.

Porches 387 s.f.

Detached Carport 384 s.f.

Width 68′, Depth 39′

10% South Glass


Nature’s Corner

First Floor 1960 s.f.

Daylight Basement  Finished 1027 s.f.

Porches 498 s.f.

Basement Garage/Shop 905 s.f.

Width 64’, Depth 46’

8% South Glass


Aurora Lights

First Floor 2448 s.f.

Porches 480 s.f.

Finished Daylight Basement 1278 s.f.

Basement Garage / Workshop 960 s.f.

Width 80’, Depth 48’

10% South Glass


Apple Energy


First Floor 2496 s.f.

Porches 288 s.f.

Garage 960 s.f.

Attic/Bonus 816 s.f.

Width 80’, Depth 76’

9% South Glass

It’s only 16 square feet larger than the subdivision minimum, but the Sunny Dream contains everything that the home owners desire.  With an Energy Star HER’s (Home Energy Rating) of 52, the home is projected to use 52% of the energy of another new home of the same size built to energy code minimums.

This performance is typical for most Sun Plans where the home owners follow our Custom Energy Recommendations AND have field verification by a third party Home Energy Rater, not the builder. This is a requirement for Energy Star home certification.

The passive solar design, along with attention to insulation and HVAC design, provide these savings. Some home owners desire to reduce the purchased energy even further by adding active solar – hot water or photovoltaic panels on the roof.

Click here to view the Sunny Dreams plan.

“The energy rater gave a solid ‘wow’ to the results of the blower door test!”

Steve and Peggy recently completed their 2464 s.f. sun-inspired home, Chapel Ridge.  They were very pleased with the process of Creating-A-SunPlan.

“We consider you a friend and it was such a great experience working with you as our architect – you were so patient trying to understand what I wanted and working with me and Steve to get the design we have now,” said Peggy in a recent email to our architect.

The homeowners were equally pleased with their builders, Kevin Murphy and Vernon Little, Anchorage Builders, NC. Vernon also enjoyed the process,

“It has been a rewarding project full of great stories and should be a wonderful, comfortable and energy efficient home for them….The energy rater gave a solid ‘wow’ to the results of the blower door test!”

(Sun Plans recommends blower door testing during and after construction as the primary method of verifying the tightness of a home in order to keep in the heat in winter and keep out the heat and humidity in summer. Air infiltration alone accounts for a much larger part of the heat gain and heat loss than most people realize. Energy transferred through cracks can even be higher than the amount of heat lost or gain through the insulation.  Energy Star certification requires blower door testing.)

Vernon also gave us a rundown of the house built in IECC 2006 Climate Zone 4: (See more about climate zones further in the email.  Recommendations may vary for other climate zones, different plans and for other type of auxilliary heating equipment.)

“The basics: Raised slab foundation. R10 insulation underslab and R7 at slab edge. Radiant floor heat – 4 zone. 2×6 walls, Spray foam insulation – full envelope, 16 seer heat pumps, variable speed, fresh air, extra returns, solar hot water and hot water circulation loop, traditional hardcoat stucco siding, Marvin casements w/ integral alum cladding, stone veneer foundation, quoins, 6″ rain gutters (piped to cistern to feed irrigation) pre-plumbed for PV on garage, stone porches, patio, and front walk, true timber frame interior and porch details, cherry trim and int. doors, tile and Ash flooring throughout, custom ash, walnut, and cherry stair case, custom built-ins, granite tops, (future) hickory mantle from site milled tree. No or low voc paints and locally made finish for exposed wood work. (Earthpaint)”

An excerpt from the architect:
After finally finding a subdivision that allowed them to build a home less than 2500 s.f., Peggy and Steve (retired) drove across several states to meet with me in our office to start the design process.  (This is not necessary with our internet-based process, but an option for those who prefer to do so.) After spending hours reviewing all their requirements (both in the questionnaire that they had previously sent in and hearing more about the details) and looking at photos of homes they like, Peggy hesitantly pulled out a photo of a home with a charming cottage-like character and told me something along the lines of “this is the style that I really like but I guess I can’t have that look and have a passive solar home”.  It had never dawned on me that the homes found on our web site might limit the ideas that others believe could be incorporated into their own home.  Needless to say, it was a major turning point in the project.
Read more reviews from Sun Plans’ Create-A-SunPlan clients

Kerry and Cheryl are almost finished with their sun-inspired home and shared details of their cozy home with us. Last weekend the said the outside temperature was 96 degrees. and the inside was 68 degrees. This past weekend had outside temperatures of 27 degrees (it snowed above timberline) and inside was 60 degrees. “We lit a small fire in the Hearthstone and really enjoyed how it heated the place right back to 68 degrees in about three hours.” The couple live in the cold-climate IECC Climate Zone 6 with no air conditioning.

We adapted the Northern Lights 4 for them. Changes included exterior wall customized for their particular ICF block, heavy timbers added to exterior porches and great room ceiling as well as miscellaneous changes. Today they just let us know that they moved in:

“We get great comments on the layout, the windows, the roof line, the northern New Mexico look, and the timbers inside and out.  The east porch is a favorite of everybody that has come by so far.  Actually the garage apron on the west side too…. it’s warm there when the suns sets and you get quite a view of the stars.”

View the new Northern Lights 4 drawings
(or scroll below for a summary introduction to it)

Joan and John have been enjoying their reversed Roseburg Cottage 7 in the moderate Climate Zone 4.

Their home was built with the garage doors moved to the back of the home while the second floor was altered to have an upstairs loft and deck (atop a screened porch) like the Roseburg Cottage 3. Their local design professional made the changes from our CAD Files.

“The southern rooms are wonderfully bright during these winter months. I am eager to see these rooms in the summer. Thanks for your wonderful plans. The plans, coupled with our fantastic location, have created a perfect home.”

It looks like the couple have gotten their wish to see their home in the summer as spring months are falling behind us!

View Roseburg Cottage 7 drawings

Visiting Henry and Terrie’s house this weekend was a special treat!  They took time out from unpacking boxes to give a tour and point out why they were glad that we had made certain changes for them from the original Garden Atrium floor plan.  Terrie’s favorite spots are the south corner sun room (and a sitting in her favorite chair it’s easy to see why) and the separate walk-in work-pantry that is an extension of the kitchen.  Henry proudly explained and showed off the details of his zoned geo-thermal heat pump, on demand water heaters and the sprayed foam insulation.

View the drawings and 3D images of the Longleaf Atrium

Some have been concerned about purchasing our CAD Files and having someone else make changes to the Sun Plans. While you do want to take care in selecting another design professional as you would with any professional, we have many happy reports for our customers.  The proud owners of our Sun Dance Cottage CAD Files have enjoyed the process of making changes to the plan  with their local design professional AND they have shared some of the results. While it’s impossible for us to notice all the changes to the plans if we do not perform the work, our architect is happy to take a look at the proposed ideas to let you know what she thinks and this is best done prior to beginning the changes.
“The biggest change was probably to incorporate what was an exterior storage on the north side into the building envelope in order to: a) create a mechanical room; and b) provide more kitchen area. We also made some changes in the rear entry and master en suite layout. But I think overall we’ve tried to remain true to the spirit of your original design.”

One of the main reasons for choosing a local design professional over Sun Plans to make changes from our CAD Files would be if you needed the changes performed quicker than the Sun Plans’ schedule would allow.

Click here to learn more about our CAD Files.

View ideas for creating sunny, bright, low-energy homes in an ad-free, uncluttered setting.

Prairie Dog 3Sun Plans feature bright interiors and energy bills at least 1/3 to 1/2 lower (or more) compared to a new home built to code. The basic concepts of passive solar design are combined with strategies that also keep the home cool in summer and maximize day lighting year-round. With dozens of passive solar house plans and low custom design fees, if there is a reason not to select, adapt or create a sun-inspired home when building a new home, then please let us know!

In this e-newsletter, read about new general features:

  • Open House – tour homes and read home owner comments
  • Favorites – bookmark the house plans that you like best
  • News – access past e-newsletters in one place
  • FAQ – now organized by subject
  • Adapt-A-SunPlan and Create-A-SunPlan introduced
  • Specials & Savings – rewards for past purchases, free book
  • PDF Files – print unlimited copies of the plans
  • Watch a movie clip of the upcoming Sunny Dreams home

And new Select-A-SunPlan features:

  • Sort by every column in the House Plan List
  • See more drawings for each sun-inspired design
  • Download a PDF flier of each house plan
  • Flip each drawing to aid in visualizing a reversed home (of course the south wall stays the side that collect the sun’s free heat)

Already explored the new Sun Plans website?  Hopefully the information below will unveil at least one more feature to make the process of planning a sun-inspired home more efficient and enjoyable.

Sun Plans Sunset Bungalow

Sun Plans Sunset Bungalow -reversed

This charming 3-bedroom, 2-bath bungalow makes the most of passive solar energy by smart placement of the home on available land, use of south-facing windows, and heat-absorbing, colored concrete floors.

The small, custom designed windows and other colorful craftsman touches by Rachael Bighley illustrate that this builder also goes above and beyond the minimum in the delightful finishing details.

This home saves energy by requiring less artificial light during the day and less heating and air conditioning all year long. Forty percent of the Sunset Bungalow’s heat is estimated to be supplied by the sun. This home was ENERGY STAR certified by a H.E.R.S.(home energy rated services) Rater.

Sun Plans Sunset Bungalow sun railing

Owners included a sun railing in the Sun Plans' Sunset Bungalow home.

Features by Sun Plans and Mark Bighley Construction:
· 10 percent glass on the long, south wall
· Bright sky tubes that lighten interior spaces
· Selective north, east, and west windows to add balanced light and increase passive cooling
· Below-slab insulation underneath concrete slab on grade construction
· Colored, polished concrete floors to absorb sun’s heat
· South windows .59 SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) –using 59% of available sun’s heat
· North, East, West windows .33 SHGC (higher reflectivity keeps out unwanted sun)
· Sprayed foam insulation in ceiling and walls
· Blower door tested low air infiltration
· Energy Recovery Ventilator
· 3 ton 14 SEER Air conditioner
· 94 AFUE fuel-fired air distribution
· Programmable Thermostat
· Energy Star appliances, lights, fans
· Pre-plumbed for active solar

While saving energy was the goal, this home became “green” in other ways as well:
· Carport instead of garage to minimize dangerous air pollutants from vehicles, paint, or gasoline
· No VOCs: paints, sealants and solvents that contained no volatile organic compounds
· Metal roof designed to collect rainwater for use
· Vegetation cleared from the land was recycled for use in the final landscaping
· Ground cover, native grasses and flower seeds minimized the need for irrigation

Click here to see more images of this beautiful home:

Mark Bighley built the featured passive solar home above (Sunset Bungalow-Reversed) and his wife, Rachel, created the unique, Sun Cast custom windows.

Mark Bighley Construction

Mark Bighley Construction, an Energy Star builder

They took a personal, hands-on approach to create a high performance home. Going out on a limb to build this home, Bighley was justified when the Sunset Bungalow sold just two weeks after it was placed on the market.

The combination of a sun-inspired design from Sun Plans along with Energy Star Certification, high-performance construction, green product selection, and artistic finishes are something to consider when building an energy-efficient home.

In October, tour a Sun Plans sun-inspired home in eastern North Carolina.

Watch for the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) National Solar Tour near you! It features active solar tours with some passive solar and green building at various sites throughout the U.S.

If you are near Greenville, NC (eastern), in October 2009, check out one of our clients who are showing their Sun Plans’ Solstice home.

The home, designed by Sun Plans Inc., is named the “Solstice” and images of this an be found at Solar tour_logo

3D Design

Sun Plans are available in 3D!

This is the best time of year to start a custom design with Sun Plans Inc.! Spring is our busiest time of year and may mean a long lead time.

Most of our custom clients are choosing our 3D services to help them better visualize their future home. Some who are requesting changes to pre-designed plans are also choosing 3D.

See our 3D page, a link only available for our e-mail subscribers. Please note that some designs may not yet be available on our Web site since they may be designs in progress.

6-21-09-ss-2-aIt only makes sense that we would feature “The Solstice” home design this quarter. And it just so happens that a reversed version was constructed by one of our favorite builders. (See more on Anchorage Builders below.) They not only sent us many photos of the house, but took the time to tell us about the energy details of which they are so proud:

“The Solstice was built for Bill and Nicole in Efland, NC. It turned out great and they are experiencing a comfortable, self regulating house with very low electric bills, in the $40-60 per month range depending on season. Bill’s professional woodworking shop is running off the same meter, too. They have great cross breezes and the passive solar works like a dream.”

Here are the general energy-related specs on the house:6-21-09-ss-2-b

Orientation – south wall faces 4 degrees east of true south

Foundation – Raised, insulated slab with extensive tile on first floor

2×6 walls with extensive air sealing

Wall & Roof Insulation – Icynene (sprayed foam)

South Glass – Cardinal LoE-178 #3 0.63 SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) which lets in 63% of the sun’s heat. Overhang designed to keep sun off of glass in summer.

E,W, N Glass – Cardinal Lo-E 170 0.37 SHGC glass (this glass keeps out the sun, but lets in a high amount of visible light)

6-21-09-ss-2-c(The window data above is for the glass only. Pella ProLine casements and awnings were used. Cardinal is one of the most popular glass manufacturer’s and is used by many window manufacturers.)

HVAC – 2 small heat pumps for up and down, with extra air returns or transfer grilles, and fresh air intake

Wood stove

Solar hot water

Garage & Shop – detached, pre-plumbed conduit for future PV (large roof area, rotated to face south)

Interior Finishes – hickory flooring in kitchen (dropped slab to allow flush transition) and upstairs, cherry trim and interior doors, custom faux finish paint on some areas, extensive color elsewhere, owner built front door (mahogany) and birch kitchen cabinets, stone chimney

Exterior Finishes – local craftsman built timber frame front entry with cherry T&G gable inside porch covering

6-21-09-ss-2-d“It was an great experience and co-collaboration with the home owners on finishing details. We had the house on the local green building tour last May; it was a great example of true passive solar and great architecture. ”

Vernon Little
Anchorage Building Corp

(While you can understand why they would not want people that area not in their building area asking more detailed questions about this house, if you are in their building radius as mentioned below then I feel sure that they would not mind a few questions.)

July 2018
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