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 HOMESTEAD ALTERNATIVES has been developing alternative energy solutions for homes and businesses since 1979.  Our mission is to design energy efficient buildings that are both cost effective and easy on the environment.  We believe that passive solar design and energy conservation should be standard components of every building. 
 With over 28 years of experience, we can help you find a way to harness the energy of the sun. Whether you have an active solar project, passive solar project, energy conservation requirements, or alternative power needs, we would love to share our passion and expertise with you.
   For those of you that are looking to build a passive solar home, site selection and development services can help you avoid irreversible mistakes.  We can measure your solar and wind potential, collect site specific data, and perform detailed heat load and solar gain analysis.  If you want to include solar design into an existing building, we can assist with planning and help you to evaluate of the solution that works best for your region and lifestyle.

Sustainable Design since 1979

   Passive solar buildings have been the workhorses of the solar industry for decades.  They have produced millions of dollars worth of heat energy and yet the passive solar industry receives little attention.  Unlike active solar systems, photovoltaics and other solar technologies that are defined by products and manufacturers, passive solar is the assembly of mostly common building materials in a way that allows a building to take advantage of its' relationship with the sun.  There are manufacturers that produce passive solar specific products that improve collection, storage or distribution, but the majority of passive solar materials are provided by the conventional building industry (bricks, concrete, glazing, lumber, etc.).
  The capabilities of a passive solar building rely on the correct selection and installation of the components that make up the passive solar heating system.  We have spent thousands of hours reviewing and testing the materials that we include in our designs.  Passive solar windows provide an excellent example of a product that requires specific characteristics to maximize solar performance.  The glazing industry has addressed the need for different types glass and coatings for solar gain applications and continues to improve the availability of passive solar glass.  This design choice alone, can increase the efficiency of a passive solar "system" by over forty percent!!  Pilkington glass offers the Energy Advantage line which uses fourth surface, pyrolytic low-e coating, giving it a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of 65% and a U-value of .23.  Cardinal glass has developed the Low-e 180 line which has a SHGC of 69% and a U-value of .28.
These properties will determine the overall performance of your passive solar heating system, but are not typically an item that is available "off the shelf".  We make sure that your passive solar system is built with the most efficient and cost effective materials that are available.
  Computer aided energy modeling allows us to predict and compare energy performance based on choices of materials and changes in design.  This tool allows us to fine tune the design of passive solar homes and present options and consequences to our clients. With a growing number of building energy analysis tools, now available, we began to take a hard look at which of these most accurately represented the actual performance of single family passive solar homes.    We designed and installed building monitoring equipment to verify the accuracy of our energy use models and compared our results with the predictions made by other energy modeling software. The results of this study are being published in a white paper that addresses this design process. 
 Our building energy performance monitoring equipment can be used to identify the actual heat loss characteristics of a building, giving us a benchmark used to compare the effectiveness of energy efficiency improvements to the building envelope or heating system.  You can find out more about this service by emailing us:  solardesign 

   Computer aided shading analysis allows us to evaluate the ability of fixed shading features in preventing unwanted solar gain during the summer months.  It also lets us demonstrate the impact of building orientation, shading from adjacent buildings and trees. The following video examples have been exported from Revit Architecture, to help illustrate the shading path during the summer solstice and winter solstice. These are the days that require the most shading and the least shading.

                           Summer Solstice

                              Winter Solstice

This sunspace has provided warmth and comfort since 1985.
It supplies nearly 40% of the heat needed to keep 4800 square
feet of living space, comfortable through the cold Montana winters.   Here is an example of our design calculations for this Belgrade, Montana home.  Overall heat load analysis - (heat load.doc)                                     Heat Load comparison -   (energy consumption chart.doc)

This shed roof design was built in 1984. 

The following link shows the temperature fluctuations and heat gain for an isolated gain system that was installed / built in 1985.  The measured performance demonstrates this passive gain system after 25 years of operation.
                       Download:  Isolated Gain systems.doc    

We have taken the science of solar design from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Aztecs.  Utilizing new and often high tech materials, allows us to improve the performance of an already proven system.  We spend hundreds of hours, each year, doing research and testing  new or improved building materials and methods.  If you are trying to make sense of all of the "GREEN" products and programs, we are ready to help.  Please take a look at our approach to making sustainable building design work for you.

Contact us by email at:
Or call 406-388-0116

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