From: Sierra Club, Sierra Club Green Home, More from this Affiliate
Published December 30, 2009 12:43 PM

Indoor Heating by a Concrete Wall

 Cuddle up with your walls!

Who ever said walls were just for hanging pictures? A Trombe wall is a sun-facing wall designed as a passive solar collector; people can enjoy its benefits in the toasty comfort of their homes. Instead of running your home heating system, you can use the radiant heat flow from an original design. The Trombe wall, also referred to as a solar wall, was popularized by Felix Trombe in 1964 although it was patented by Edward Morse in 1881.


A Trombe wall is an energy-efficient masonry wall designed to absorb heat from the sun during the day and radiate it into the interior during the night. The building interior is heated as the warm air flows indoors by convection. With the assistance of vents, the rising heat enters the living quarters while the cool indoor air enters the bottom vent to assist in circulation. Vents may be adjusted to accommodate seasonal heat variation and to prevent heat loss. Energy efficiency can be improved by closing the bottom vent, which allows air to escape to the exterior during the evening or winter. In addition, to reduce heat loss, double glazing windows can be added to the design in order to trap the fleeing geothermal heat in a layer of inert gas between the two panels.

During the day the sunlight passes through the glazing (the outer, bi-layer window) and heats up the dark thermal mass wall (usually concrete), warming the surface by absorption of solar energy. Then the hot air between the glazing and the thermal mass (via heat conduction) rises to the top vent, along with the convection-produced heat. As a result, the heat flows into the building interior and warms the area.

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