When it comes to solar energy, most people consider it synonymous with solar panels, and the generation of electricity. But really few people know that the most cost effective way you can use this energy is for heating, and not for electricity.
Solar air heating is quite common in countries such as Australia, China, Greece or Israel, but the United States have a lot to pick up in this area. The name pretty much speaks for itself, as solar air heaters are simple devices, which typically consist of an absorbing medium, insulation to prevent heat loss and a way to transfer the heat into the living space. Sounds too simple? Well, that’s just how it works, no hidden secrets; in fact, they’re so simple, many people choose to build them themselves instead of buying from professional companies. The absorbing medium can be nothing more than a painted aluminum sheet, the insulation can be silicone and the transportation medium usually consist of regular pipes. I’ve even seen people build them from soda cans painted black, and working just fine at dirt cheap prices.
However, they are rather complementary heaters, being able to supply only a part of the necessary heating. Typically, they account for 25%, but if built in very suitable areas, such they can go up to 50%, and even more. It is very useful both in households and in industrial buildings; many use it to heat their chicken coops or garages.
So in the long run, using a simple measure like a solar air heater can save you a lot of money in the long run, while not requiring any maintenance or big efforts; you help the planet while also helping yourself. Whether you feel confident and want to build one yourself and spend as little as possible, while also enjoying great quality, or you want to just buy one and spare yourself of the work, I cannot recommend a solar air heater enough. Having built a couple myself, I can tell you that with a minimum of care and thoughtful work you can get great results as well, so personally I would encourage that course of action, but the choice is yours – and so are the benefits.
This is a guest post written by Andrei Mihai, who usually blogs over at ZME Science. If you want to find out more about solar air heating and how you can make your own solar air heater, check the highlighted links.
Solar air heating and solar water heating are perhaps the best improvements you can make to your home, in terms of energy and heat. At a virtually negligible cost, these technologies could save you thousands of dollars, while also doing a great deal of good for the environment, so it’s quite a win-win situation. So let’s look at some of the similarities and differences between them, in order to better understand what each brings to the table.
First of all, both of them require sunlight. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sunlight must not be confused with heat! You can have a lot of sun on a really cold day, or it could be really hot but cloudy. Both of them rely on a collector which itself relies on sun rays to heat the air or the water, so the bigger the surface and the more solar power, the more heat.
In the red corner, we have solar air heating; the air is heated through an airbox and then reinserted into your home, either actively (through a fan) or passively (by convection). Typically, if done right and in proper areas, it can provide up to 50% of all heating in a certain room or house during the cold season, but all year round, that figure goes closer to 25% rather than 50. It should be very cheap, as it is made from simple, non expensive parts, and realy easy to do yourself, with a minimum investment and it should be fairly sturdy, as non of the parts require particular caring and maintenance.
In the blue corner, solar water heating can account for up to 85% of all water heating, which is much better than solar air heating. Furthermore, in some cases, it is also used to heat the home, though that requires some special technology and is suited only for really cold and sunny areas. What it does is it heats a certain fluid, which can either be the water itself or, even better, a mixture of anti-freeze and anticorrosive, which then in turn heats the water through a heat exchanger. It works complementary with traditional water heating, but it does the job all by itself in most cases, failing only during the night and the cold season.
Now, heating water is expensive, so it can save you a whole bunch of money, but the thing is, it is a little more costly and also requires some maintenance, regarding the fluid, the pipes, and not only. You have to be sure at all times that nothing comes through the water, so it requires much more care.
So, who’s the winner you could ask? Well… both! Both are really great improvements to your house, both will save you a lot of money, and both are really green. Of course, one is more high maintenance but has more potential at the moment (solar water heating). If you plan on going for both of them, you’re definitely doing the right choice, but if you only have to choose one, for different reasons, such as a really harsh lack of money or not enough room for two absorbers, then it’s hard to say which one is better.
Do you use a lot of water? Does heating air cost more than heating water? Do I want to spend more time and money for a better return of my investment? This kind of question will answer your problem; if you’re having a hard time, just keep track of these expenses for a whole month, and decide afterwards.