Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Add to My MSN

The Elegant Solar Wall Heater

6/11/2013 1:46:00 PM

Tags: solar heater, passive solar, appropriate technology, Kyle Chandler-Isacksen

solar wallThis post continues my words on Appropriate Technologies. My last entry was about our $30 greenhouse – a super appropriate technology for sure. Here’s another quote from EF Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful that I love which relates to AT’s: “…To redirect technology so that it serves humanity instead of destroying it requires primarily an effort of the imagination and an abandonment of fear.”  Yes!  Go Ernst Friedrich!  While the Solar Wall Heater does involve a bit of imagination and creativity I’m betting that no one is afraid of it thus making it even easier to employ for humanity’s continued existence. (I will share about fear in future posts.)

There are several great articles on making a solar wall heater in the MEN archives to which I can add little. However, I will share some of why I feel everyone on the planet should be using this simple and elegant appropriate technology.  What follows is an analogy-cum-brief rant with a little about our own model afterwards. Enjoy!

When a friend offers a gift, and a good one at that, do we turn our backs and refuse it?  Do we go even further in rejecting it by behaving antagonistically to the spirit of the gift?  Of course not!  We accept it graciously and use the gift with love and respect. Hopefully we think of our friend who made the effort to share the gift each time we use it and thereby strengthen our connection to them and to love in the world generally. We may even rejoice in the abundance of our lives and feel so moved that we “pay the gift forward” to another so that they too can feel so uplifted.

For me, it’s the same with the Solar Wall Heater. Nature/God/the Universe…has given us a great gift in the Sun. It shows up daily and predictably and lights and heats our world, all without attachment to results or even to recognition. I’m reminded of this poem by Hafiz:

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,

"You owe me”

Look what happens with a love like that.

It lights the whole sky.

What a gift we’ve gotten!  And God/Universe/Nature must love Reno because we get about 500 days of sunshine a year, and that includes the winter. To not accept this gift, to not make use of the abundance he/she/it has lain at our feet is akin to giving God the finger. “F-U God!  We don’t need your stinking blessings. In fact, to spite you even more we will build our houses on a North-South axis (or to line up the roads we make) and warm ourselves by burning oil and coal sucked and ripped out of your sacred earth. So there, take that!” (Extend middle finger now).

OK, rant over. But I get pretty fired up about solar and our neglect of it, especially simple passive solar – the lowest hanging fruit. It seems we Americans so often snub nature and sit around wasting our time debating how best to burn or destroy things when the simplest and most elegant answers are staring us in the face (literally in this case) every day. Solar Wall Heaters are one of those answers that are simple enough for a middle-schooler to understand and make in a few hours. I share my thoughts and experiences in the hope that more of the world will choose elegance, simplicity, and gifts.

I built our heater from a scavenged glass door (thanks, Weston) – make sure it is NOT a low-E door - a scrap of OSB plywood, some old 2x4’s, two square buckets with good lids (via Whole Foods’ dumpster), and a piece of corrugated metal that was laying in my friend Scott’s backyard. I also used some crummy old black paint (not recommended – use decent paint, preferably low or no VOC) to make the metal more heat absorbent. I measured and cut two holes in our bedroom wall (which happens to be the only south facing wall on our place) for the buckets and then built the box to hold the metal and mount the door. I plopped it on, shoved some insulation in the cracks, and ran inside to see if it worked. It did. Beautifully. The crummy paint smelled real bad for a while (I learn) but other than that it’s super. The lids are on now so I don’t get any summer heating. I tried to not use paint but couldn’t come up with something else that was black and would work. Suggestions welcomed!

Time was about 3 hours. Cost was about $2. A Super Appropriate Technology that works for us and, incidentally, does little to destroy the world. There should be a Boy Scout badge for these. You can do this!  We can do this!  Rave about your magic heater at cocktail parties and potlucks. Show it to your friends because examples have transformative power. Get out there and use that big, bright, ball of burning gas in the sky. It’s the greatest gift we’ve been given.

You can read more of Kyle's adventures and inventions at  The Be The Change Project.



Related Content

Builders Should Be Required to Orient New Homes Toward the Sun

Enacting a law requiring builders to orient new homes toward the sun  would drastically reduce home ...

Have You Ever Built a Solar Water Heater?

You can use the power of the sun to heat water for your home using manufactured solar hot water syst...

The Beauty of Solar Design

Designing a home with the sun in mind is a simple way to slash your energy bills and make your home ...

What is (a) Passive House?

Could you heat your house with a hair dryer? Super-efficient Passive Houses use very little energy.

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 







Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.