WIT Press

Physical model and design rules for the optimization of solar chimney systems


Free (open access)


Volume 3 (2018), Issue 4



Page Range

307 - 324

Paper DOI



WIT Press


Udo Dietrich


Natural ventilation is a basic quantity to reach comfort in passively acting buildings. It delivers not only fresh air to breath but can also be used to temper the room if the indoor temperature is above the outdoor one. Driving forces are temperature differences (buoyancy) and wind. However, both may be weak in hot and especially humid locations.

A solar chimney uses solar radiation to heat up the exhausted air and to increase buoyancy, thus could help to improve that situation at least during the daytime. Nevertheless, the implementation of solar chimneys is quite rare. It may be that the idea to use heat to cool and ventilate a building seems strange. The literature reports about the potential of solar chimneys, characteristics like volume flow and temperatures are measured or simulated. Though, the findings of these publications are based on a special geometry and provide not enough detailed information about the optimized shape (width, height, length, etc.) of solar chimneys. To overcome that situation, this paper presents general design rules for the geometry of solar chimney systems that could be adapted to existing or newly erected buildings. A solar chimney system is assumed as composed by three components: An absorber as the main part to reach a higher temperature, a stack extension on top for further acceleration of the exhausted air, and a stack at the bottom connected to the (lower) storeys that should be ventilated.

A full set of equations of fluid mechanics and thermodynamics is presented and describes the physical behaviour of the air in the system. These equations are coupled with each other and can be solved in iterations, also with a simple spreadsheet. As a compromise between accuracy in results and complexity of the simulation method, the physical model is based on some simplifying assumptions like turbulent flow, friction on walls, air as an incompressible medium, and immediate heat transfer from the absorber to the air. Nevertheless, the outcomes are in accordance with the findings from the literature, as the model seems to reflect the physical behaviour adequately. The main results are volume flow, velocity and temperature, allowing the optimization of the geometry of the chimney system. An applicable list of design rules for solar chimneys is finally presented as well as proposals for their integration in typical apartment buildings in hot and humid locations.


application in apartment buildings, buoyancy, design rules for geometry of solar chimneys, friction, hot and humid Climates, natural ventilation, physical model, solar chimney