While the methods of collecting solar energy have improved drastically over the years, some of the most effective tools have been around for decades. Case in point: the Trombe wall, made popular by French engineer Felix Trombe in the 1960s, but originally patented as early as 1881 by Edward Morse.

passive trombe wall

The idea behind the Trombe wall is simple: collect solar heat throughout the day, and store it in a wall of high thermal mass. Then, the heat is released at night to warm up cooler temperatures. Better yet, the wall can fit seamlessly into modern home designs, appearing as if it’s simply there for added aesthetic appeal.

So how does it work? A high-mass concrete or masonry wall is installed on the south side of a home. Then, a layer of glass or clear glazing is added a few inches apart from the concrete or masonry. When the sun hits the wall, it enters through the glass or glazing and is trapped by the wall. It eventually makes its way to the inside of the home.

The Trombe wall works best in warm, sunny climates that have a high temperature difference between night and day, e.g. the mountain-west. So if you happen to reside in such an area, consider the Trombe wall. After all, who can beat energy efficiency and aesthetic appeal in one package?

Photo Credit: Jeremy Levine Design via Flickr CC