Active solar heating

Active solar heating systems come in two types – liquid or air systems. Liquid solar heating systems utilize water or an antifreeze fluid mix to capture and transfer the heat gathered by solar collectors. Air solar heating systems utilize air to capture and transfer the heat instead of a fluid. Either type of active solar heating can be used to heat a home with the power of the sun but they work somewhat differently.

Air solar heating systems use a duct system similar to that of a traditional forced-air system but the ducts are larger. The larger ducts make it feel warmer due to the slower movement of the air flowing through them. Air systems produce heat for longer periods each day than liquid systems and air systems don’t freeze in low temperature climates.

Liquid solar heating systems use water or an antifreeze fluid as the heat transfer agent. As the collectors absorb solar energy it is transferred to the fluid. This fluid is circulated through the collector by a circulating pump. The heated liquid can then be used to heat the home or return to a storage tank. Liquid systems are able to store the excess energy when the home does not need heating.

Active solar heating systems can be used on their own to heat a home, especially if located in warm climates. When used in cooler climates, such as New England or the Midwest, it may be necessary to have a backup heating method for when it’s needed. Even when the active solar heating system isn’t used exclusively to heat the home, you will still save money on utility bills and reduce your family’s impact on the environment.

To be the most economical and reduce payback time of installing your active solar heating system, the solar energy should be replacing more costly energy sources such as oil. Colder climates with lots of sunlight will be areas that will maximize the cost effectiveness of the system. You can reduce the installation costs by up to fifty percent by finding all the available rebates and credits in your area. There are often offers from local utilities as well as the state and federal levels – combined, these can save you a lot on installation costs and reduce the payback time even further.

Initial cost of installing active solar heating systems can vary from $30 per square foot on up to $80 per square foot of collection material. Often the system can be made more cost effective by including a water heating system in with the heating system so that the collectors aren’t sitting idle in the summer months. Once the installation costs have been recovered, the rest of the life of the system will essentially be producing free heat for your home.

You can drastically reduce or eliminate your winter fuel costs by installing an active solar heating system in your home. Not only does that save you a lot of money on utility bills in the long run, it also has an immediate effect on the environment. In more traditional heating methods, your home produces air pollution and global warming each time you turn the heat on. With your active solar heating system, you are eliminating this source of environmental harm.

Even in northern climates, an active solar heating system used with traditional heating backup will save you a large percentage of your home energy costs. While you may not be eliminating your dependence on fossil fuel alternatives, it will certainly dramatically reduce your personal contribution to global warming and climate change. There are few things that you can change in your home that will have as great an impact on the environment.

3 Responses to “Active solar heating”

  1. Dan Says:

    We installed a solar air heater this November and it is working quite well. We installed in on the south wall of our walkout basement and it was easier than originally anticipated, even for a non-experienced person like myself.

    We have measured temperature gain (or ‘rise’) of between 60 and 70 degrees F from the unit, with a maximum temperature reading of between 130 and 140 degrees coming out of the heating vent connected with an insulated flexible duct 24 feet away which was more than what I had thought.

    Folks can read about our evaluation and installation experiences, with pictures, here if interested to find out more.

    It would be great if there were more government subsidies for the home owner for these devices which consume zero home heating oil or natural gas when generating heat. The one we purchased simply plugs into an existing electrical outlet.


  2. solar gordon Says:

    Active solar heating can very cost effective and I’m surprised I don’t see more of it. A study in Newfoundland showed a 40% decrease in fuel usage. That is pretty cool.

  3. kier mizuik Says:

    i was think for some time now about an ACTIVE solar panel that heats air all day and water for use as a pre-heated for my hot water heat pump . or in floor radiant slab in my garage .
    i want to use abs elbows and horizontal runs 36″ long , the runs i was thinking of using heat capture recover units , they use copper tubes about 3″ wide and then wrap 3/4″ tubing a round that for water to flow through . i would fill this with glycal (plumbers antifreez ) . i live in eastern canada . burr.
    painted flat black , the copper should heat the fluid and by way of a siphing cold in hot out at the top .and using a thermostore exchange could preheat all most all my water needs .
    but the inner core that the air can flow through needs to be slowed , by way of disterbance finns of some kind made of again copper not to react with the tube , and also conduct the heat better . i am think not a spiral but something more random is need for those finns . more like a propeller shape on a boat prop.
    any way . this i want to hanh on a wall not the roof because of snow .
    and it will be in a box insulated at the back and sides ,top and bottom with 1″ pollysteren and foil cover to reflect light energy
    also because of the space between tub will be about 4″ and the same deep . i want to make a ^ shaped piece out of allumium flashing and cover it with allumium foil to reflect even more light energy to the tubes .
    and this box will have a thermal pane of glass over it . the one i am starting with will be 5′ high x 7′ wide .
    the only thing i need now is to power the fan for the air tubes 50 cfm i think . i want to power that from a photovallic solar panel .
    no need to use grid for a solar panel , to power a fan .
    i would like any advice good or bad , i will build it my self , and the cost is just the materials . i have three thermal panels thats the cheap part .
    if the heat recovery tubes are to exspencive i mite try pex over abs or maybe inside abs pipe ?
    i need a littel help with the math , how mant btus of water heat and the how do i measure the btus that the air provides .
    thanks for reading my rambels . kier.