Homestead Heating With Solar Power

An overview on homestead heating with solar power: heating a home by harvesting the energy which flows freely down from above is a relatively new concept for the homestead.

| May/June 1971

  • Figure 1: Diagram of a homestead heated with solar power.
    Figure 1: Diagram of a homestead heated with solar power.
    Diagram by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff
  • Chart: Solar house comparison chart.
    Chart: Solar house comparison chart.
    Chart by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • Figure 1: Diagram of a homestead heated with solar power.
  • Chart: Solar house comparison chart.

Learn about homestead heating with solar power and how it can help keep costs down while using green energy.

Homestead Heating With Solar Power

Sunshine Power — heating a home by harvesting the energy which flows freely down from above — is a relatively new concept for homestead. However, reams of money and heavy brainwork over the years have gone into sophisticated solar power projects and that research can now be turned to light — or rather, heat — a place in the outback.

In the past, most buildings which have successfully utilized solar heat have been costly experiments aimed at proving an adaptability for suburban homes. This meant working within the limits of traditional suburban architecture to a large degree. Back at the homestead, outside of this genteel straitjacket, the subtle art of sunshine power can be more properly exploited. If your place is away from it all, and you like the idea of a cheap heating plant which isn't helping to use up the last of our fossil fuels — the sun may be for you!

The basic principle of solar heating, long used for building greenhouses, is that the transparency of glass is greater for visible light than for the infra-red part of the light spectrum. Early attempts at the solar house relied extensively on this single principle. The first models, developed in the early Thirties by Prof. F. W. Hutchinson, were almost conventional structures save for their oversize windows on the south side. They were fine so long as the sun was shining . . . but eventually used more fuel than conventional homes because — soon after nightfall — the large area of exposed glass lost all the heat which had been gathered during the day. A heating system which goes into reverse at sunset and never starts up at all on cloudy days is obviously not much competition for the fossil fuel burners.

There are ways to change this situation for the better, however. Insulated glass has solved the reversal problem and interior shutters which close over the windows at night provide an additional barrier against heat loss. Even in a normal house, with regular single-pane windows, interior shutters can cut heating bills by thirty percent. This was shown in a number of test houses situated between latitudes 40-43 degrees (e.g. New York-Nebraska) . . . not the warmest of winter's zones. Incidentally, well-sealed double-pane windows or insulated glass can reduce heat loss by an additional 20 percent (same ordinary homes, same area).

Our first design principle then, is: Use Large South Facing Windows With Solid Interior Shutters To Be Closed At Night.

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