Solar Gain - what is solar gain in buildings?
Solar gain can be used to increase the thermal energy and temperature in a building, such as offices or public buildings, heating the space in cooler climates. But in warmer climates, solar gain can be problematic and can cause discomfort for occupants. In this guide, we take a look at what solar gain is, the benefits and complications it can cause, and how solar gain impacts the environment.
What is solar gain in buildings?
Solar gain refers to an increase in temperature in a structure caused by exposure to the sun’s heat. In buildings, this heats the interior of a building directly through windows as well as indirectly through the heating of the internal structure of the building.
Buildings have the capacity to retain this heat as they have a high thermal mass, or they can avoid it through the use of certain reflective materials, depending on your goals. Passive solar design refers to focusing on the materials and construction techniques used in a building to maximise or minimise the energy from the sun’s solar radiation.
What are the pros and cons of solar gain?
Solar gain can be put to good use if you want to utilise free sunlight as a heat source. There are various ways to do this, such as the location and size of windows and material choices when constructing a building to the choice of insulation to maximise the effects of solar gain. In cooler climates, solar gain can be beneficial in providing a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way of heating a property.
The issues with solar gain are caused by the fact that the power of the sun is variable, and since glazing is static, it can’t always cope with the variability of the sun’s strength and intensity. There’s also the issue that glazing, in cooler parts of the world, is designed to trap and retain heat, but this means that the excess heat can’t escape easily in the summer, creating a less than desirable environment inside buildings.
It’s also energy-intensive during periods of higher temperatures as air conditioning and fans are required to create a more comfortable environment for employees and visitors in buildings such as hospitals, offices and retail stores.
In a standard commercial building, as much as 90% of the expenses are attributable to the people working in it. For this reason, the comfort of a building’s occupants is a priority for businesses, whether it’s a school, healthcare setting or another public building.
What are the environmental impacts of solar gain?
While there are some benefits to solar gain, it can have a negative impact on the environment and can increase a business’ carbon footprint significantly over the course of a year. The reason for this is that in periods of intense solar radiation, buildings require the use of air conditioning systems and additional electricity use for desktop or floor fans to keep occupants cool and comfortable.
There are ways, however, of reducing solar gain through solar shading and innovative materials which minimises the need for air conditioning in public spaces and can save businesses money and energy.
How to combat solar gain?
Solar shading is an effective method used to manage the variation in heat and light caused by the sun, without blocking vision entirely. Using Smartlouvre’s MicroLouvre® screens, businesses and organisations can manage light and provide shade for occupants and visitors, which efficiently dissipates heat to create a more comfortable temperature inside.
MicroLouvre® mesh fits neatly and easily on the outside of windows to block heat and provide ample shade to reduce solar gain and glare, while still providing an uninterrupted, clear view through the window. MicroLouvre® assists with energy reduction, and is an entirely maintenance-free solution to solar gain in commercial spaces.
Our unbeatable shading systems are highly efficient in keeping the interior of offices, hospitals and public spaces cooler without reliance on air conditioning systems. MicroLouvre® Koolshade® blocks up to 100% solar heat gain in buildings and shade from up to 100% solar glare, but still enables the use of the window itself for ventilation and circulation of fresh air.
MicroLouvre® solar shading solutions are A1/A2 fire rated and can withstand Hurricane Force 12 and Category 2 Hurricane winds to protect buildings and occupants alike – MicroLouvre® screens have been tested from different angles and proved it to be indestructible at winds exceeding 100mph/160 kph/46 metres per second. With low or no maintenance, our solar shading products have been utilised in a wide variety of industries, from police stations and council buildings to retail spaces and hospitals around the world.
Which industries can benefit from solar shading?
Solar gain can be an issue for many industries, from impacting the productivity of office workers to creating an unhealthy environment in hospitals. Hospitals, for example, require natural daylight to aid the recovery of patients, and there have been numerous studies into the benefits of nature and light in helping people heal faster and creating a more therapeutic environment.
Similarly, a balanced temperature is necessary, but air conditioning systems consume vast amounts of energy and can circulate bacteria and viruses. During the 2020 pandemic, guidance from healthcare specialists encouraged the use of natural ventilation to avoid the use of air conditioning. Using solar shading creates a healthier, eco-friendlier interior and balanced thermal comfort for patients, workers and visitors, not only in healthcare settings but also other workplaces and commercial premises.
For more information about the benefits of solar shading and the products Smart Louvre provide, contact us today and we’ll be happy to answer any queries you may have.