Heat Your Home For Free With These Solar Heaters.

October 27, 2009

My landlord just installed 2 of these solar heaters – 10 days before I move out, which stinks. But for the next 10 days, I plan on running these heaters all day long to heat up the house for absolutely no cost to me. In an effort to try to explain what my landlord did, I took a few pictures of the heaters and will do my best to explain how they work.

Each solar heater is basically a sealed wooden box sitting on a small cement foundation and attached to the side of my house. The front of the box is made of glass windows and right behind the windows is black tar paper, which helps to attract and absorb the heat from the sun. Behind the tar paper and running back and forth several times within the box itself is 36 feet of dryer venting, zig-zagging itself back and forth from one end to the other.

Each end of the venting goes into my house – one entrance at one of the wooden box and one at the other. (Yes, 2 small holes are cut into my house for each end of the venting to be brought inside)

Inside my home, this venting is covered with a grate and framed out with some wood that matches the trim in the house. This is a closed loop system, where the air comes from inside my house, through the heater, and back into my house through the other vent. One end has a small fan with a thermostat attached, so that once the air inside the box reaches 72 degrees, the fan automatically turns on and pulls room-temperature air into the heater, lets it work its way through the 36 feet of “heated-up” venting, and returns it slowly back into the house.

When it is sunny outside, these solar heaters crank out some serious hot air. So even on frigid cold days, when these heaters come on they do a great job of heating up the place, as they aren’t even using the outside air to begin with. There is one on each end of my home, and because of the open floor plan, the heat comes from these ends and meets in the middle – my living room. Sure, they don’t work at night (obviously), but they definitely put out a lot of heat during the day, so the warmth does last into the evening for a bit (especially with my concrete floors).While you still may need to run your heater at night or on cloudy days, you won’t need to during any sunny days. A few of these will keep you toasty warm on the coldest of them.

Here is the materials list in case you want to try to build your own:

- Wood frame box
- Old windows
- Tar paper
- Cement for a footing
- Foam for around the footing
- Dryer venting
- Metal grates for inside the house
- Some wood trim (if you want it) for inside the house
- A small computer fan to pull the air into the heater
- A thermostat to have the fan turn on and off automatically

I know the boxes did take my landlord some time to build, but I also know they weren’t that expensive – especially for how much they give back. Just thought I would pass this amazing idea along to you guys!

Filed in: solar • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (12)

  1. BethBot says:

    What at awesome landlord! These are attractive and practical..thanks for sharing.

  2. david says:

    I live in the high desert, we have cold winters and hot summers. They are heaters, not air conditioners. In summer, they don’t turn on.

  3. Teresa says:

    so what do you do in a region where you get cold winters and hot summers?? I imagine they do not help cool the house when it is hot out, though i know the sun is in a different position.

  4. David says:

    Sure, inside the box. Bu the box is closed off in summer.

  5. Teresa says:

    so it won’t conduct heat during the summer?

  6. BRUTUS says:

    I’ll bet that you could get away with having the heater mount directly to the house without any need for a concrete pad. Also, to make things even simpler, I wonder how well the system might work passively without the need for a fan or thermometer.

  7. Mase says:

    One problem I have found B4 we start, is that you are using parochial names for things; there are no pix of the inside of the box so that I am able to figure out what you’ve used; so I have to ask the question what is “dryer venting”? thanks
    PS. please remember that the Internet is worldwide not just american.

    • david says:

      Its the hose used to vent dryers to the outside.

      I do remember, but remember – I am an American so that’s my reference point. :) Thanks!

  8. barb says:

    The dryer vent is usually a 4 inch aluminum tube and there are also corner pieces that slip onto the pipe. It’s fairly easy to work with.
    http://www.acehardware.com/category/index.jsp?categoryId=2631243 That link takes you to s store site so you can see pics.

  9. John from Buffalo says:

    These are solar thermal heaters. There are plenty of DIY ideas out there – I am in the process of building one myself. Basically its a box with pop-cans in series, with holes in between them (tops/bottoms).. and painted matt black to collect solar energy and generate thermal (heat) energy. The idea is to move air through it by the process of sucking in cold hair from the bottom (its heavier than hot air), and push OUT hot air – like forced hair. The air is heated by turbulence as they go through the box. Generally there are fans at the top-bottom of the box to help and a battery is charged sometimes by a solar panel to keep the fans powered as well. Pretty neat, actually .. so a complete (almost) free heat source. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_thermal_heating)