If you’ve ever stood outside and felt the sun’s rays warm your face on a chill winter day, you’re already familiar with the power of solar energy for heating. You may use solar energy to keep your home cozy without even realizing it. Examining the many ways that solar energy can heat your home will give you a full arsenal of environmentally friendly choices for keeping your home warm this winter. Utilizing solar energy can be as simple as opening and closing your curtains at the right time of day, or as complex as installing active solar heating panels.
Direct Gain Passive Solar Heating
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Direct gain is a form of passive solar heating that’s so easy to use that it’s intuitive for many homeowners. Direct gain simply refers to a means of heating the home that relies on direct sunlight. If you have south-facing windows, the sunlight that streams through them during the day is providing direct gain solar heating, whether you recognize it by this name or not.
All you need to facilitate this type of heating is to open your blinds and curtains when sunlight is coming in, and close them when it’s not. This allows your home to take advantage of as much natural heating as possible during the day, then lock it in at night. You can increase the benefits of direct gain heating by installing high-mass materials in the home that will prevent overheating, while retaining and radiating warmth into the night. Good options include tile floors, tinted plaster walls, and brick or stone fireplaces.
Indirect Gain Passive Solar Heating
Indirect gain passive solar heating systems absorb heat during the day and distribute it to the home through conduction. There are several options available for this type of heating. A Trombe wall absorbs solar radiation as it passes through glazing. Vents in the wall pass heat directly into the home during the day, while the mass of the wall itself conducts heat into home throughout the night.
Water is another excellent collector that you can incorporate either as a water wall or a roof pond. Roof ponds offer more even heating throughout the home, but they are inefficient in high-ceilinged homes, as the radiation density decreases significantly with distance.
Isolated Gain Solar Heating
Isolated gain solar heating refers to a system where solar collection and storage takes place in an unoccupied or separated part of the building. A sun room is a good example of isolated solar gain system. This actually uses a combination of direct gain and indirect gain strategies. The room collects sunlight and conveys the resulting heat to the rest of the house by way of a conduction wall or vents.
Active Solar Heating
Active solar heating is any system that purposefully collects solar energy and uses it to actively transfer heat into the home. These systems collect energy through solar heating panels, typically mounted on the roof. While many passive solar heating systems require few if any alterations to the home’s design, installing active solar heating is a bigger proposition. However, property owners have to give a thought and think about the advantages and disadvantages of relying on solar energy to understand how a solar heating system will work for their home.
Active solar heating systems transfer the energy collected through solar panels to liquid or air which stores the heat for later use. These systems also incorporate a backup heating method that will kick in when there isn’t adequate sunlight, so that homeowners who use solar panels don’t have to worry about suffering from the winter’s chill during a cloudy day.
Solar energy is something that’s freely available to everyone. While the amount of heat you can collect will vary from one day to the next, there’s significant value in collecting and utilizing this free source of warmth. Take a look at your home’s design and consider which solar energy options will work best for you. Soaking up the sun with the right materials could dramatically reduce your energy expenses this winter, giving you a warmer and greener home.