Assessment of energy efficiency in a passive solar housing development

Brian Valenzuela, University of Texas at El Paso


Conventional housing design and construction in low-income communities may be affordable initially, but it may not be cost-effective or environmentally benign in the long run. Passive solar housing offers alternative design and construction features and practices designed to reduce energy consumption and consequently energy expenses. However, the lack of quantitative analysis on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of these features and practices has resulted in a common perception that they are unaffordable for low-income communities due to their extra initial costs. The energy efficiency of a passive solar straw bale low-income housing development (Tierra Madre) was assessed and compared against an adjacent community in southern New Mexico (Sunland Park). Two years worth of utility data for consumption and cost of electricity and heating & cooking gas were analyzed statistically and economically to determine the effectiveness of the Tierra Madre energy efficiency features and practices. The analysis revealed that, on average, passive solar housing reduces electricity consumption by about 30 percent and heating and cooking LP gas consumption by about 18 percent, representing a total reduction in energy consumption of about 25 percent. In addition, the null hypotheses that the true mean values of per-capita consumption and cost for Sunland Park are at most equal to those for Tierra Madre has been rejected for all months for electricity, and for cold season months for heating and cooking gas. The return on investment (or payback) period for the differential "extra" cost of passive solar housing compared to conventional housing is estimated to be 10-13 years. ^

Subject Area

Engineering, Civil|Energy

Recommended Citation

Valenzuela, Brian, "Assessment of energy efficiency in a passive solar housing development" (2007). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1449755.