Solar Home Heating: Concepts and Methods
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Solar Home Heating: Concepts and Methods

What is solar home heating?

Solar home heating systems are gaining popularity nowadays despite its high initial investment. These systems basically utilize solar radiation to provide space heating. This means that power from electrical equipment for heating space is eliminated or reduced. There are two general systems of solar space heating based on how heat is captured. These are the passive and active solar heating system.

Passive solar heating. This system requires no equipment to capture solar radiation. Its concept is similar to heat building up inside your car when it is left parked under the sun. Heat naturally accumulates inside the space. In this design, windows, walls, and floors are made to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer. It does not use mechanical and electrical devices. Passive solar buildings aim to maintain interior thermal comfort throughout the sun’s daily and annual cycles while reducing the requirement for active heating system.

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Some of the techniques involve in this system are:

a. Orienting a building to the sun. In this technique, the structure must be oriented relative to greater solar exposure. It may include facing the majority of windows or light inlets to the sun.

b. Selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties. The materials used in the construction of the structure must be capable of transferring heat at a relatively faster time, and then store it within the space.

c. Spaces that naturally circulate air. The building must have good compact proportion or a low surface area to volume ratio. In other words, the volume of the building space must be larger the total wall area. This way, there will be greater storage of heat, steadier circulation of air and proper ventilation. Furthermore, selective shading or overhangs can be considered.

A Passive Solar Home (image source)

Active solar heating. This system requires some means to absorb and collect solar radiation and then store it. Active solar uses electrical or mechanical equipment for the conversion of solar energy into useful form of energy. Techniques involved in this system are: (a) the use of photovoltaic panels and pumps, and (b) use of switchable windows and fans to convert sunlight into useful outputs. All these methods utilize reflectors, concentrators and receivers of sunlight, most commonly mirrors.

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There are two basic types of active solar heating systems based on the type of fluid—either liquid or air—that is heated in the solar energy collectors. Liquid-based systems heat water or an antifreeze solution in a "hydronic" collector, whereas air-based systems heat air in an "air collector." Both of these systems collect and absorb solar radiation, then transfer the solar heat directly to the interior space or to a storage system, from which the heat is distributed. If the system cannot provide adequate space heating, an auxiliary or back-up system provides the additional heat. Liquid systems are more often used when storage is included, and are well suited for radiant heating systems, boilers with hot water radiators, and even absorption heat pumps and coolers. Both air and liquid systems can supplement forced air systems.

An example of active solar heating system uses flat-plate solar collectors to heat up water and swimming pools.

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Wikipedia: Passive Solar Building Design

Wikipedia: Active Solar


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Comments (9)

Very good article. The concept of solar heating is also catching up in India too.

This is an excellent overview of and an introduction to the subject of solar heating for the home.

Excellent building designs and heating concepts, kabayan.

This is a highly environment-friendly way to heat water.

I have wanted a solar powered heating system for 30 years. I could not convince my former husband of the savings in the long run. All he saw was the enormous outlay. Well done aticle and made me want to dream once more of a solar assist in any part of a home. Thank you.

Wow! Excellent solar piece, I was hoping to see the "solar-water-light-bulb" kabayan but kudos to this one, happy holidays my friend.

Great article. I like the use of the photos, very helpful!

the energy of the future..sooner or later all vehicles and machines will be energized by solar power

Solar energy, radiant light or we can say heat from the sun, has been harnessed by humans since ancient times using a range of various ever-evolving technologies. Solar energy technologies generally include solar heating, solar thermal electricity and solar architecture which can make considerable contributions to solving some of the most urgent problems the world now faces today. Solar heating is a very powerful and efficient idea to warm up your home or any building. Today there are also many electric heating devices available that provide efficient heating to your home or any building.