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Terms of trade: What is a Trombé wall?

Named for the French engineer Felix Trombé, who designed them in the 1960s with the architect Jacques Michel. The trombé walls use a form of passive solar construction to handle building temperatures throughout the year.

These walls are especially valuable in colder climates. a glass layer on the outside, and a solid portion of high heat capacity material with openings for air on the inside. The windows let short wavelength light pass easily, and the wall captures that energy and transforms it into longer wavelength heat radiation, which does not move as easily through the glass. This combination allows the sun to heat the inner air, which is then slowly spread through the structure, which helps to increase the heat during the night.

The walls themselves have many variations. Some have openings, others are completely solid. Some cover the entire surface, while others are only half the height of the windows they are facing. Some have secondary windows that can be opened and closed for manual adjustment, some have outer slots for better cooling on warmer days, and some even include fish tanks that are built in directly to capture additional heat.

The concept of these structures dates all the way back to 1

881, when they were first patented by Edward S. Morse.

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