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Solar Air Heating

Solar air heating is an environmentally friendly way to heat a home or business. This style of heating has been around since the 19th century, but it has been really catching on as the desire for reducing one’s carbon footprint has risen. This renewable energy heating technology works by capturing heat via a solar collector and then blowing the gathered heat into the building upon request. There are two basic types of solar air collectors: unglazed air collectors and glazed air collectors. Both of these types of solar air collectors can help provide renewable, clean heating for homes and businesses alike.

Unglazed Air Collectors

As the name implies, an unglazed air collector is different from a glazed air collector because it does not have any sort of glass or glazing covering the metal absorber. These types of air collectors heat up air that comes from outside of a building rather than from within, bringing in fresh air rather than recycling old, stuffy air. Unglazed air collectors can be wall- or roof-mounted in such a way as to collect the most sunlight at all times of the year. Another plus of this type of system is that it recaptures heat that is escaping from the building and sends it back in, increasing the efficiency of this heating method. These systems can last up to 30 years and require little to no maintenance.

Glazed Air Collectors

Glazed-air collectors recirculate air that is already inside of a building without drawing in air from the outside. Glass or other glazings are applied to the metal absorber of this type of solar air collector, also serving to differentiate it from the unglazed air collector. The heat is often transferred via ductwork, distributing the heat to all areas of the building where such ductwork is present.

There are four different types of glazed air collectors, but only one operates fairly differently from the others. Through-pass air collectors get their name due to the fact that the air is ducted through a perforated, fibrous material and is heated by a combination of the thermal properties of that material and the convective process. These collectors have the largest surface areas of all air collectors, which can be good in terms of conductive heat transfer rates but bad in terms of pressure and durability.

Front-pass, back-pass, and combination pass solar air collectors all feature units that direct the air in the direction of each unit’s name. The air does not go through the material as it does with the through-pass air collector; instead, the air passes to one or both sides of the material. These solar air collectors also have large surface areas but can run into operating trouble through fouling via collected dust on the absorber.

Uses of Solar Air Heating

The most obvious use of solar air heating is space heating, which is accomplished by drawing air from inside or outside, heating it, and distributing it through venting. In fact, some business building codes require buildings to have some sort of fresh air or ventilation, and solar air heating can help businesses meet code in an environmentally friendly way. However, solar air heating can also be used for various types of process heating in terms of drying out various objects. For example, solar air heating can be used to dry laundry, various types of crops, and other items.

Benefits of Solar Air Heating

Some people would question the value of solar air heating, especially since mankind has been heating homes without it for centuries. Since humans have been using fossil fuels for heating for centuries, much pollution has built up in the atmosphere and polluted the surface of the earth. Solar air heating is highly environmentally friendly because it does not require the burning of fossil fuels to generate heat. People who use this kind of heating can have the satisfaction of knowing that they contributed to making a cleaner planet. For those who are more concerned with the economic side of this issue, however, installing solar air heating can save a homeowner over $11,000 over the course of 30 years; the unit will pay for itself in terms of savings in approximately 17 years. Considering that the unit should last over 30 years, homeowners will reap the benefits of solar air heating for years to come.

Methods of Getting Solar Air Heating

Homeowners interested in solar air heating will likely want to know how to get it, and there are multiple ways. Each method has its pros and cons; homeowners will have to decide which method is best for them based on income, experience, and free time.

Professional Assistance

An interested homeowner could purchase a solar air heating unit and hire a solar professional to install it, but the ease of installation of this type of unit allows for a general contractor or carpenter to carry out the installation. Installing a solar air heating unit is not terribly difficult for someone with carpentry skills, so homeowners should shop around locally and learn about pricing that way. The advantages of such a setup would be having the professional assurance of a quality installation and not having to invest much time in the installation. The largest downside would be expenses since hiring someone to install such things can get expensive.

Purchase and DIY

Someone who does not want to make a solar air heating unit from scratch but who does want to install it without professional help may choose to purchase a unit and install it without professional help. This method would cut down on expenses and would come with a personal sense of satisfaction at taking such a step to help the environment, but would cost man-hours and the potential for something to go wrong during a nonprofessional installation.

Completely DIY

Numerous Do-It-Yourself tutorials and instruction sets for building a solar air heating unit from scratch abound online, so serious Do-It-Yourselfers may want to gather their own materials and build their own solar air heating units. The cost of such an endeavor would be low in terms of materials and manpower, but man-hours and necessary knowledge would be fairly high.

As with any installation project, a homeowner will have to examine all the possibilities and choose the one best for him or her. A homeowner may also want to consult a solar air heating calculator that will give an estimate about solar air heating savings and unit performance based on each individual homeowner’s house and heating model choice; this would help the homeowner determine which unit would be best for the heating space.