Trombe Walls

Since ancient times, people have used thick walls of adobe or stone to trap the sun’s heat

during the day and release it slowly and evenly at night to heat their buildings. Today’s

low-energy(green) buildings often improve on this ancient technique by incorporating a thermal

storage and delivery system called a Trombe wall. Named after French inventor Felix

Trombe in the late 1950s, the Trombe wall continues to serve as an effective feature of

passive solar design.

A Trombe wall has masonry or concrete on the inside that is painted black on the exterior face, an air space, and glass on the exterior of the home. The completed walls look like windows with black shades. Photos: Joe McGovern, Living Designs Group


Trombe Wall Design and Construction:

A typical unvented Trombe wall consists of a 4- to 16-in (10- to 41-cm)-thick, southfacing masonry wall with a dark, heat-absorbing material on the exterior surface and faced with a single or double layer of glass. The glass is placed from ¾ to 2 in. (2 to 5 cm) from the masonry wall to create a small airspace. Heat from sunlight passing through the glass is absorbed by the dark surface, stored in the wall, and conducted slowly inward through the masonry. High transmission glass maximizes solar gains to the masonry wall. As an architectural detail, patterned glass can limit the exterior visibility of the dark concrete wall without sacrificing transmissivity.

Do It Yourself Trombe Wall:

Just another feature in green construction that may look normal. However these windows could not be used for ventilation or access for RIT.

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Lt. John Shafer


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