If you’re like many of us every time you get your gas or oil bill, you give at least a passing thought to “how can I pay less to heat my home”. Solar energy is one way you just might be able to cut your home heating (as well water heating) bills dramatically. Solar energy is absolutely free, all you need to do is figure out how to capture and use it in your home. At this time there are two ways you can take advantage of the potential of solar heating - either actively capturing, storing and distributing it or alternatively using simple passive solar heating techniques that will help warm you home.
Active solar heating systems
- In active solar heating systems, the sun’s energy is captured in a ‘collector box’, essentially a metal box with a glass top to allows the sun to shine in and heat the air inside. This heat is then transferred to either liquid (usually water or glycol/antifreeze) filled pipes or air tubes and distributed throughout the house using pumps or fans.
Passive solar heating systems
- In passive solar heating systems, the design and décor of your house actually captures the sun’s heat then releases it as the house cools.
- In a passive solar heated home there are no electrically powered fans or pumps to move the heat, so it doesn’t use any energy sources that produce greenhouse gases.
- Your home’s walls, windows, and even floors can all be used to collect and store then give up their heat when it’s required. As an added bonus, they can also be designed to reject the hot summer heat so a passively solar heated home doesn’t become unbearably warm when there’s lots of sunshine.
Implementing a solar heating system
- One of the things that concerns people considering some form of solar heating is the thought they need to install large (as well as ugly and expensive) collector panels to gather the sun’s heat. The reality is large collector panels are only a requirement for active solar heating and design advances have even made them much less noticeable.
- However, you can utilize passive heating techniques in your home without making it look substantially different than your neighbor’s.
Here’s some ways you can take advantage of passive solar heat in virtually any home.
- Large uncovered windows will allow the sun to shine in during the day heating the interior. By closing your blinds or curtains when the sun goes down, you will effectively trap the heat inside. Use lined curtains and solid blinds to hold the heat in. Windows can be coated to reflect the sun’s rays in the summer and you simply reverse the order of the blinds and curtains process in the summer to keep the heat out.
- Be sure your insulation (particularly in your attic) is up to code (R-40 to R-60 for attics depending on your location, according to the Department of Energy), and be sure to block off any air movement by caulking and weather stripping your windows and doors.
- Paint your walls a darker color, (even a darker shade of your existing color will help) and use darker colored floor coverings and tiles.
- Plant deciduous trees on the south side of your home (the sunny side). Evergreens will block the sun (and its heat) during the winter.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He can be contacted at [email protected].