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Sun Angles & Passive-Solar Design Resources

Publications, On-line resources, Software, Apps, Products, etc.


Passive Solar Architecture Pocket Reference, by Ken Haggard, David A. Bainbridge, and Rachel Aljilani. Earthscan Publications, 2009. This book provides easy-to-use information on a wide range of topics relevant to the passive built environment, including thermal sources, microclimate, radiation, air flow relations, passive heating, cooling and ventilation, natural lighting and life cycle cost and design.

Passive Solar Architecture: Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Daylighting, and More Using Natural Flows, by David A. Bainbridge and Ken Haggard. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011. An excellent, thorough resource.

The Passive Solar Energy Book, by Ed Mazria. Rodale Press, 1979. Out of print, but available from,, and others. An excellent book.

Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd ed., by G. Z. Brown and Mark DeKay. John Wiley & Sons, 2001. A pattern book illustrating passive heating and cooling strategies for a diverse array of contexts ranging from individual homes to high rises to whole towns.

Sun Rhythm Form, by Ralph L. Knowles, MIT Press, 1981. A well-illustrated book that proposes ensuring solar access for all in the urban and suburban environment by building within “solar envelopes.”  The solar envelope is a “container” or three-dimensional boundary in which a building’s height, width, and depth must be limited to ensure key solar access for all surrounding properties, while enhancing passive heating/cooling, comfort, daylighting, ventilation, and quality of life for those within the building being built. This is a key concept to enable our cities to be built without dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

Ritual House, by Ralph L. Knowles, Island Press, 2006. A wonderful book on how ritual and vernacular architecture have historically sheltered and empowered us, while working with, rather than fighting against natural rhythms and resources, and how we can design and retrofit our modern buildings and cities to work with natural systems once again.

Design with Climate: Bioclimatic Approach to Architectural Regionalism, by Victor Olgyay, Princeton University Press, 1963.

A pioneering work with extensive strategies, data, and graphics for understanding and building within four distinct climate regions: temperate, cool, hot-arid, hot-humid.

The Food and Heat Producing Solar Greenhouse, by Bill Yanda and Rick Fisher. John Muir Publications, 1980.

Effective Shading with Landscape Trees, by William B. Miller and Charles M. Sacamano. University of Arizona College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension bulletin 188035/8835, March 1990.

A Golden Thread: 2,500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology, by Ken Butti and John Perlin. Cheshire Books, 1980. Fascinating history, solar design has been around a very long time.

The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling, by Dan Chiras. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2002.

The Return of the Solar Cat Book: Mixing Cat Wisdom with Science and Solar Politics, by Jim Augustyn, Patty Paw Press, 2003.

A humorous illustrated guide to the basics of passive and active solar strategies and energy politics, from the cat perspective.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 2nd Edition: Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life and Landscape, by Brad Lancaster. Rainsource Press, 2012. For numerous tools for the integrated, regenerative harvest of on-site water, sun, fertility, food, and more, see Chapter 4 – Integrated Design; Appendix 7 – Sun Angles and Paths; and Appendix 9 – Water-Energy-Carbon Nexus.


www.SunCalc.netAn online app that illustrates the sun’s path for any given day at any given location.
Sustainable by Design’s online tools to determine sun angles and position, visualize sun paths, window overhang design and visualization of overhang shade, overhang recommendations, visualization of penetration of sunlight through windows into a room, visualization of shading from window louvers and fins, calculation of heat gain through windows, visualization of shadows cast by solar PV and hot water panels, and monthly climate data for about 250 U.S. cities. Solar Calculator to find sunrise, sunset, solar noon, and solar position for any place on Earth USNO Sun or Moon Altitude/Azimuth calculates the altitude and azimuth of the sun or moon at multiple times during any day anywhere in the world between the year 1700 and the year 2100. Results are displayed in 24-hour format.
Magnetic declination is the angle, at a given location and on a given date, between true north and magnetic north. Due to magnetic changes in the earth’s core, magnetic declination changes from place to place and over time. Use either of these websites to determine how many degrees you’ll need to correct your compass’ reading of magnetic north to know where true north is. Note: for the NOAA site, you’ll need to know your site’s latitude and longitude in decimal format. To convert coordinates from minutes and seconds to decimal format, visit this page of the U.S. government’s FCC website.

Solar-Design Software

Autodesk Ecotect Analysis
Great for visually assessing sun and shadow relationships anytime of the year, anywhere in the world. Also includes design tips, and carbon-emission and energy-consumption analysis.
video demonstration:

Google Solar SketchUp
Free software to visualize sun and shadow relationships for anytime of the year, anywhere in the world.
video demonstration:


Sun Seeker: 3D Augmented Reality Camera 3-D View
Uses the GPS unit in your phone to find and show your site’s solar path, its hour intervals, its winter- and summer-solstice paths, sunrise and sunset times, and current time’s shadow ratio. A pretty good app, but needs improvement. It gives you the shadow ratio only for the date and time you are looking at the app. It could be improved by enabling you to find the shadow ratio for any date and time of your choosing. In addition, it would be great if you could export and print the sun path images and map views.


Your site’s latitude: Look at a globe, atlas, or topographic map, or google “what is the latitude of (your town, state, country).”

Solar Ovens/Cooking

Sun Oven International, Inc.
They make the Global Sun Oven®, the most efficient solar oven I’ve used.

Solar Cookers International
A great organization/resource for making and using your own solar oven.

Barbara Kerr and the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center
Pioneering work in solar cooking and sustainable living. (link for Kerr-Cole SLC)


The Sunny Side of Cooking: Solar Cooking and Other Ecologically Friendly Cooking Methods for the 21st Century by Lisa Rayner.

Solar Cooking Naturally, by Virginia Heather Gurley. Sunlight Works, 1995.

Solar Water Disinfection

Solar water disinfection with PET plastic bottles or glass bottles (SODIS)
Note: Do not use plastic bottles when the plastic starts to cloud up due to the plastic breaking down in the UV light of the sun.

Solar Water Distillation

Eliodomestico solar still
Transforms salt water into drinking water, and can be made by local craftsman with mostly local materials.—how-does-it-work/

Sun and Shade Harvesting