Solar heat for homes is not a daydream. As energy prices rise and the global community talks of energy sources drying up, solar homes are becoming increasingly appealing to consumers. So is the idea of heating the home with solar energy. As a result, ways to heat a home with solar energy are becoming more affordable.
Solar heat for homes can be achieved in several ways. It is not simply a matter of placing photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof and generating electricity for a furnace. That can be done, but other things can also be done to get solar heat for homes.
Passive Solar Heat for Homes
Passive solar is one of the simplest methods of acquiring solar heat for homes. Passive solar heating collects and distributes heat from the sun without external, mechanical pumping systems.
Passive solar heat for homes begins by positioning the solar home in such a way that it takes full advantage of winter sunlight to warm interior rooms and walls. In the northern hemisphere, a solar home will be positioned to give its main area southern exposure. In the southern hemisphere, a solar home will be positioned to give its main area northern exposure.
Passive solar heat for homes is also available through building materials and architectural design. A solar home should have many vertical windows on its winter sun exposure side to collect solar warmth. These windows should be glazed, and uncovered during the day to allow warmth to enter. As the sun goes down, shades and curtains should be drawn to retain the heat. The side of the solar home that gets summer sunlight should have fewer, and smaller, windows.
A passive solar home should feature masses of brick, concrete, stone, or adobe (mud bricks) that absorb and hold heat during the day, releasing it gradually as the air cools. These building materials should be used for walls and floors where the sunlight will hit them.
Passive solar heat for homes also requires thick insulation. Once heat has entered the solar home through large, glazed windows, insulation will help hold it there as the air cools. Placing the garage on the non-solar side and main living quarters on the “exposure” side also helps heat a solar home.
Active Solar Heat for Homes
Active solar systems for heating a solar home consist of “collectors” that collect solar energy, and electric fans or pumps to distribute collected heat. Heat is transferred by liquid or air, and can be stored to provide heat when the sun is not shining.
Solar air “collectors” will collect solar energy in air passing through the system. The air absorbs the sun’s heat, and transfers it into the solar home. This works best for heating individual rooms, although some systems can heat larger areas with the use of pumps and fans. Solar air collectors for individual rooms can be mounted in an existing window.
Solar liquid “collectors” are more appropriate for central heating. These are the same type of collector as those used in solar water heating systems. Flat plate collectors are mounted, usually on a roof. Each collector contains water, antifreeze, or another liquid that will collect the solar energy. At a predetermined time, regulated by a controller, a circulating pump sends the fluid through the roof-top collector. The liquid is directed to a heat exchanger for immediate use, or sent to a storage tank for later use.
Active liquid solar heat for homes can be sent through pipes under the floor to maintain an even radiant heat at floor level. Radiant floor heating is ideal for liquid solar systems. It performs well, even at relatively low temperatures.
Combination Solar Heat for Homes
The best solar home will combine passive and active solar energy collection. Passive solar heating can reduce heating bills by nearly 50 percent. Active solar heating can supply 40 to 80 percent of your heat, depending on your local climate and the system’s size. Put the two together, and you have a solar home that is comfortable and efficient.
If concrete floors topped with tile are already warmed by passive solar heating, an active system that send hot water through pipes in those floors will keep the solar home cozy and warm.
Aside from any initial costs for active solar energy systems, solar heat for homes can be free. It is clean and environmentally friendly. It leaves a smaller carbon footprint, too. Is it for you? That is worth serious consideration.