SolarWall Solar Air Heating Technology

Transpired air collectors, marketed as SolarWall, bring solar air heating to businesses, warehouses and even residential buildings.

| December 8, 2010

Harnessing the power of the sun is nothing new in the energy-saving world. For decades, green buildings and homes have employed solar panels to convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity. But in the dead of winter, when temperatures are low, the sun can provide buildings with more than just electricity; it can provide heat as well. Solar heating is a smart way to get through the colder months sustainably, and one company — in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy — has invented a solar heating system that is simple and efficient.

Transpired air collectors are an innovative solution to high heating costs. The transpired air collector technology, marketed as SolarWall, was invented by Conserval Engineering Inc., a solar heating and energy conservation company, which worked in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The principle behind the SolarWall air heating technology is relatively straightforward, and it produces a big payoff. The company installs a dark-colored façade, which acts as a heat absorber, on a building’s south-facing wall, leaving a space between the original wall and new façade for airflow. The exterior façade of the SolarWall system is made up of tiny micro-perforations that allow air to flow into the wall cavity. This air is pulled up and into the building by a fan, and as the air rises, it’s heated by the warm wall. Warmed air enters the building through a connection to the HVAC intake. (View an animation of how SolarWall technology works.)

Fresh air entering the building after being warmed by SolarWall technology will require less additional energy from a building’s existing heater. Victoria Hollick, a SolarWall representative, says transpired air collector systems generally save customers between 10 to 50 percent of heating costs. Savings depend on a building’s orientation, the size of the SolarWall collector, the length of the heating season, the volume of air to be heated and the color of the wall.

Solar heating systems that use glazed panels are a popular option as well (read Build a Simple Solar Heater), but the simplicity of transpired air collector systems makes them easy to maintain and affordable.

Transpired air collectors can be used for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. SolarWall systems are currently used in 33 countries, and you may recognize some of the big names already employing this technology: the United States Military, FedEx and KFC/Taco Bell, to name a few.

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