Build a High-Rise Do-It-Yourself Solar Space Heater

Build a high-rise do-it-yourself solar space heater to heat your apartment on the cheap. Includes step-by-step instructions, why the heat grabber works, cutting tools for foam cuts and plans for the window heat grabber.

| November/December 1982

Build a do-it-yourself solar space heater to heat your apartment. The solar heat grabber saves heating money, is inexpensive to build, easy to install and simple in design. (See the solar space heater photos in the image gallery.)

Imagine, if you will, the qualities that might define an "ideal" do-it-yourself solar space heater: The device would, for instance, be inexpensive . . . universally easy to install (a hang-it-out-the-window, setup would be nice, thank you) . . . effective (one unit should be able to keep a fair-sized room comfortable) . . . safe (and pretty much vandal proof to boot) . . . and so simple in design that just about anybody could put one together in less than a day, using only common household tools.

Well, if you figure that no collector could have all those virtues, check out the photos accompanying this article . . . because a couple of MOTHER's staffers designed—for inclusion in our Guide to Self-Reliant City Living—a passive solar room heater that meets every one of those requirements. And it turned out to be such a terrific little project that we decided to present it here in order to share it with all of MOM's readers!

Actually, the lightweight (14-pound) sunpowered window furnace is an improved version of the tremendously popular Heat Grabber we featured in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 47 . . . and although many folks figured it'd be pretty difficult to refine that already extremely useful piece of hardware, the modifications we've made allow darn near any home, or apartment, dweller with access to direct sunlight to take advantage of the device.


The original BTU-catchers were, you see, designed to be used on the ground floor . . . a factor that permitted them to be angled—between window and ground—to absorb the maximum amount of solar energy available. Furthermore, the fact that they were somewhat heavy, because of their glass collector-surface covering, wasn't a serious drawback in the ground-level installation.

The new Grabber, on the other hand, can be placed in just about any window that opens upward, whether it be on the first or the twenty-first story . . . simply because the unit has been modified to hang flush against the building's wall rather than jut out from it. (That's a change, by the way, that eliminates the bothersome "optimal angle" calculations that were necessary in the construction of the original unit.)

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