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  • Building a Simple Passive Solar Heat System

    This is one of the easiest projects to get free solar heat. It involves materials you can buy at the store and tools that most do it your selfers own.

    First you need to find south (north for the southern hemisphere) facing windows. This is easy in the winter since the sun is low in the sky and beams in those windows. You have probably already noticed the warmth coming in with the sunlight. You can harvest and amplify that heat several ways.

     

    First, to help explain what we are doing I will describe a very simple way to acqurie solar heat. Have a storm window installed on a winter sun window so it is completely sealed. Caulk it well and close it snugly. Slightly open the top and bottom of the regular window in the house. Adjust those openings until you feel a slight breeze of warm air coming out the top. That is free heat!

    Now that you understand the concept try something bigger. I like this solution since it adds a window you can grow plants in year round and produces heat in the winter. To do this you put in a green house window on the winter sun facing side (S in N Hemisphere; N in S Hemisphere). This requires a window replacement and most likely some modification of the wall area to fit the greenhouse window. Green house windows protrude on the outside of the house and come in many sizes. On the inside of the window use two pieces of ridgid plastic that slide so you will be able to get to the plants inside of the greenhouse window and control the flow of heat into the house.

    In the house shown to the right the second floor windows produce the greenhouse heat. There are many variations to the green house window including a wall of windows and a walk in greenhouse. I go over more passive solutions that are built into this house. Look for passive solar house designs on the menu.

     

    Now let's take a look at a custom window heater that does not take up the entire window and can be easily removed. As you can see in the diagram it protrudes from the windo toward the ground at an angle to maximize solar gain.  It runs on convection although some people extend the vents to floor and near ceiling and put a small, slow speed fan in the duct. Too fast a fan and you will not get any heat gain that you can feel so make sure the fan is able to be adjusted so you can set the speed for optimun heat output.

    This solution can be in many configurations including built onto an outside wall, not over a window but the vent are cut through the wall top and bottom. Look for more designs in the solar heat kit section.

    Hot water can be heated passively. Look at the portable shower. The black tank heats up water. On a hot day you can create a lot of hot water this way.

    Simple enough for you? Passive Solat Heat Kits are simple solutions you can do at low cost and near zero operating expense.

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  • Can You Build Your Own Solar Energy System?

    Solar PanelsSolar Energy has become very affordable in the last few years. Home owners are finding that out and putting solar energy system on their houses.

    The wholesale cost of a solar panel is about one dollar a watt. With ten 250 watt panels you can generate 2500 watts which is 2.5 kilowatts. This size system is what the average house uses. This will power you during daylight hours and you can sell excess power. Then you can buy power back from the power company at night. Add batteries if you want to store energy for when the power grid is down or you simply want to be independent from purchasing power. Off grid systems use batteries instead of a connection to the power grid.

    Wholesale costs for those panels is about 2500 dollars. Components for the system add another 2500 dollars. You have install hardware, mounting frames, etc. Add 2500 dollars. An electrician to do the grid tie installation, 1000 dollars. Approximately 8500 dollars estimated D-I-Y price at wholesale cost. This way you can keep the price way down if you purchase the system yourself and hire an installer if needed. All warranties still apply to the equipment when you buy it yourself. Your investment is for 2.5 kw for 8500 dollars with system life of 25 years.

    Is it really that easy and inexpensive? Yes and No. You have to have carpentry and electrical skills to put the panels on your roof. To do it yourself you have to fundamentally understand electricity to hook the panels, inverter and other equipment. There are diagrams and instructions included with the equipment so half the job is simply hooking up what you see. Do not do any wiring unless you have the skills and knowledge to be safe. We offer guidance and tips for the do-it-yourself person that has the necessary skills. If you do not have these skills hire a certified installer. Even if you are not technically skilled to do it, knowing the basics and prices helps you get the best deal.

    Why do I need to know this? The system we suggested above cost 3.40 per watt. The industry standard for installed cost averages to 6.00 per watt. Just like with any other D I Y project you reap enormus savings.

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