Solar power has been used since the beginning of time for heating purposes. If you wanted to get warm, you could stand in the sunshine. If you wanted to heat your house, you could open the curtains. It’s really only been in the last 30-40 years that we have begun to take a look at using the heat of the sun to replace expensive fossil fuels which run noisy generators to keep your entire house warm. I’m a firm believer in using the limitless natural power of the world like solar and wind energy to replace the old fossil fuel system. I believe that solar collectors will only become more efficient as the years progress.
Let’s take a closer look at solar power to warm your house and to provide warm water.
One way you can use solar power is to incorporate passive solar energy into the design of your cottage or home.
Some passive solar energy methods include to locating windows in the upper floor of the building so that these areas are solar-heated during the warm season, having windows which can open to cool off your building when needed, allowing cooler air to enter in the lower areas of your building to cool the building, and placement of windows on the south side of the building to maximize heat and light into the building.
However, when we talk about solar power heating systems, we are normally talking about active solar energy, which can be used to heat your house and heat the water which you need to use.
To use solar power to heat your house, you will need to install collector panels on the south side of your building. The best type of panel to use is a perforated-plate solar collector, which is a metal panel with evenly-spaced holes spread across its surface and mounted away from the wall, creating an air gap between the panel and the wall. The number of panels will depend on a number of conditions, such as how large is your building, and how much heat which you will need the collectors to generate. As air rises through the panels, it is heated by solar rays, and is vented into the buildings when it reaches the top of the collectors. In addition, the panels recapture much of the heat that flows out of the wall, and redirects this heat back into the collectors. This type of heat generating system has become fairly inexpensive. In Canada, a four panel system can cost as less as $300!
Solar water heaters work on similar principles. The sun’s energy is collected through south facing collector panels, such as flat plate or evacuated tube collectors. A system controller compares the temperature of the solar collectors with an indoor water tank. When there is enough heat in the solar collectors to heat the water in the tank, the controller signals the pump to start sending a heat transfer fluid to the collectors to gather the heat. This fluid circulates through a heat exchanger, which heats up the water in the indoor water tank. The tank then dispenses hot water into the cottage’s water system as needed. At the end of the day, some models have a special anti-freeze fluid, keeping the pipes from freezing, while other units drain all the water contents into the water tank.
One question that is often asked when it comes to using solar power to heat air or water is “Will it work on cloudy days?” Another similar point that is often brought up is that during the winter, Canada tends to receive less solar power than other areas. Will solar power provide the same amount of heat during the winter? Just as solar electricity has battery storage systems to store electrical charges for the evening, solar heating systems have storage facilities for the heat to save it for days where there is less sun. Thermal energy is collected through the solar collectors and transferred to underground storage. This temperature increases through the summer months, and is released when necessary during the cloudy winter months. It goes without saying that bright sunny winter days pose no problem for solar heating systems.
If you are looking for an inexpensive way to heat your cottage, or potentially lower the cost of your heating bills for your current home, take a look at solar power- a renewable, inexhaustible resource.