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!