Solar Heating Plan for Any Home

This solar heating plan is a system that works with almost any home. The solar collectors are built into a small, new building, and the hot water storage tank fits into the new building, too. The simple design prevents frozen collectors without complicated plumbing.

| December 2007/January 2008

  • Solar heating plan system diagram.
    Solar heating plan system diagram.
    Illustration by Len Churchill
  • Gary Reysa’s home in the foothills of southwest Montana. Heat collected in the shed (right) is transferred to the house (left) via underground water pipes. The collectors on the garage (middle) heat the garage with solar-heated air.
    Gary Reysa’s home in the foothills of southwest Montana. Heat collected in the shed (right) is transferred to the house (left) via underground water pipes. The collectors on the garage (middle) heat the garage with solar-heated air.
    Photo by Gary Reysa
  • The water storage tank is built from plywood and pond liner material.
    The water storage tank is built from plywood and pond liner material.
    Photo by Gary Reysa
  • Heat from the solar collectors is distributed through a radiant floor heating system using PEX tubing running through aluminium heat spreader plates. A hot water baseboard heating system is another option.
    Heat from the solar collectors is distributed through a radiant floor heating system using PEX tubing running through aluminium heat spreader plates. A hot water baseboard heating system is another option.
    Photo by Gary Reysa
  • Collector cross-section diagram.
    Collector cross-section diagram.
    Illustration by Len Churchill
  • Light reflected up off snow will increase the effectiveness of the collectors. To avoid snow accumulation on the collectors, make them vertical (instead of tilted) and add an overhang to the shed.
    Light reflected up off snow will increase the effectiveness of the collectors. To avoid snow accumulation on the collectors, make them vertical (instead of tilted) and add an overhang to the shed.
    Photo by Gary Reysa
  • Glazing is in place over the four middle collector bays. The absorber plates are still exposed in the two outside collector bays.
    Glazing is in place over the four middle collector bays. The absorber plates are still exposed in the two outside collector bays.
    Photo by Gary Reysa
  • Plywood spacers ensure that PEX pipes are evenly distributed in the radiant-heat floor.
    Plywood spacers ensure that PEX pipes are evenly distributed in the radiant-heat floor.
    Photo by Gary Reysa

  • Solar heating plan system diagram.
  • Gary Reysa’s home in the foothills of southwest Montana. Heat collected in the shed (right) is transferred to the house (left) via underground water pipes. The collectors on the garage (middle) heat the garage with solar-heated air.
  • The water storage tank is built from plywood and pond liner material.
  • Heat from the solar collectors is distributed through a radiant floor heating system using PEX tubing running through aluminium heat spreader plates. A hot water baseboard heating system is another option.
  • Collector cross-section diagram.
  • Light reflected up off snow will increase the effectiveness of the collectors. To avoid snow accumulation on the collectors, make them vertical (instead of tilted) and add an overhang to the shed.
  • Glazing is in place over the four middle collector bays. The absorber plates are still exposed in the two outside collector bays.
  • Plywood spacers ensure that PEX pipes are evenly distributed in the radiant-heat floor.

Slash your home heating bills with this exciting solar heating plan for any home. You can use the solar-heated water to heat your house using radiant floor heat or baseboard heaters, or you can use it to pre-heat water going into your hot-water heater. If you can build a deck, you can build this super solar system!

A Solar Heating Plan for Any Home

It’s time to take advantage of solar heat to reduce your dependence on fossil fuels and lower your heating bills. This simple, yet effective, system can be utilized in almost any home. Because the solar collectors and the heat storage tank for the system are built into a small new outbuilding, you don’t need to completely remodel your home to use solar heat. On sunny days (or even partly sunny days) the collectors add heat to the storage tank. When the house needs heat, hot water from the storage tank is transferred to the house via an underground pipe into a radiant floor heating system. (See illustration in the Image Gallery.) The new building that houses our collectors is a storage shed, but yours could be a studio, playhouse or workshop.

Advantages of This Approach

• The collectors are mounted at ground level, where they are easy to build and maintain.

• The collectors can be oriented and tilted for maximum solar collection.



• The collectors and the building can share a structure in such a way that the material costs and time to build are reduced for both the collectors and the shed.

• The collectors look good integrated with the shed (see photo, Image Gallery).

Shane
3/4/2018 2:21:24 PM

Gary, thank you for the really stimulating and informative article. I live in southern Australia (Mediterranean climate) where winter temperatures are moderate compared to many U.S. regions. Is there some calculator I could use to determine how large a collector area I would need to heat a certain sized space in my situation? We also work in Celsius, so it all becomes a little confusing to work out. My winter minimums are -4 C (25 F) at night but around +15 C (59 F) during the day. We have a lot of sun even during winter, and winter is from beginning of June till around the end of August (2.5-3 months). We only heat the lounge room, kitchen-dining and a study room. Bedrooms and the rest of the house are not heated. I have designed a house but not built it yet, and it will have hydronic heating pipes set in the concrete floors in the rooms to be heated. The area to be heated in total is 98 square metres (1055 square feet). The house will have very good insulation and rammed earth walls. I am wondering if I can heat this area with solar water collectors mounted directly on the roof of the house and a tank mounted in the ceiling space? Or I can use the more simple setup you have given here. But particularly, how do I calculate the area of collector space and size of the tank? Thanks again, Shane


Shane
3/4/2018 2:21:22 PM

Gary, thank you for the really stimulating and informative article. I live in southern Australia (Mediterranean climate) where winter temperatures are moderate compared to many U.S. regions. Is there some calculator I could use to determine how large a collector area I would need to heat a certain sized space in my situation? We also work in Celsius, so it all becomes a little confusing to work out. My winter minimums are -4 C (25 F) at night but around +15 C (59 F) during the day. We have a lot of sun even during winter, and winter is from beginning of June till around the end of August (2.5-3 months). We only heat the lounge room, kitchen-dining and a study room. Bedrooms and the rest of the house are not heated. I have designed a house but not built it yet, and it will have hydronic heating pipes set in the concrete floors in the rooms to be heated. The area to be heated in total is 98 square metres (1055 square feet). The house will have very good insulation and rammed earth walls. I am wondering if I can heat this area with solar water collectors mounted directly on the roof of the house and a tank mounted in the ceiling space? Or I can use the more simple setup you have given here. But particularly, how do I calculate the area of collector space and size of the tank? Thanks again, Shane


John
6/11/2014 10:36:53 AM

Solar heating has become increasingly popular over the last few years with people looking to improve the energy efficiency of their home. I combine this with http://www.underfloorheatingsystems.co.uk to provide a fantastic energy efficient outlook on my home. My annual bill has nearly halved in this last year and I would strongly recommend anyone to invest in this to save money in the long run.






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