Solar Heating Questions

Reader Contribution by Jim Baker
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Hello again, all! I’m writing this post to ask for feedback, comments, concerns, or even more questions regarding solar heating panels.

YouTube will be my downfall, I am sure. Having watched a few videos on the aforementioned site, I was all fired up about getting some solar panels made for each side of the house, getting them in place, and maybe even looking into some sort of modified system for air transfer for a proposed root cellar I have in my head.

The concept was quite straightforward and simple. Then I watched a few more videos, and suddenly it became rocket science, with guys that have graduated from MIT talking about air mass, air transfer, cycle volumes, and such things as that. Then they start looking at this design versus that design, and this old man is beginning to wonder if this stuff really works. How does someone that knows nothing about computer fans, wiring (other than knowing how to grab the wrong wire at the wrong time when working here at the house), and snap switches (what is a snap switch anyway?) make this contraption work, if it works at all?

And so the question begs: downspout or aluminum soffit? And, going back to my old days in construction, would copper screen painted black be better than anything else as far as screen goes? Sure it costs more, yet if the end result is a better product and it will basically never wear out, why not make the splurge up front?

And how big? I am thinking of these as daytime alternatives to my wood stove (save on the firewood issue!), and although I’m by no means in the coldest part of the world, central North Carolina does have its winters. As we all know, the inside of an unheated structure gets colder than it is outside. More of that air mass, air transfer, air movement, CFM stuff that is way beyond my pay grade.

All kidding aside, will a few-hundred-dollar unit keep the house warm during the day, or will it be more like a thousand spent to keep the house (less than 1200 square feet and poorly insulated) in the 70s range during the better part of a day? Does the outlet and inlet into the unit have to be in the same room, or even same physical opening? Is there such a thing as too big? How long does it take to build a moderate size unit? YouTube does it in less than 26 minutes, which I am quite sure is not correct. Plans abound online as I have seen, yet I want to do this just once, not reconstruct it ten more times because I should have done this or that to start with. I know the ultimate choice is mine to make, yet I would like that choice to be an informed one.

Photo by Fotolia/vladdeep

Any feedback from someone that has done one (or more) of these would be greatly appreciated!

Until then, live long and prosper.

Jim (The One Acre Farm)

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