Solar Space Heating

Why Solar Heating Systems?

Solar Panel Space Heater In our consumption based society, solar heating has become more important than ever. Natural gas, oil, and other fossil fuels, which we burn to heat our homes and offices, are finitely limited. As reserves of gas and oil shrink or become more hazardous to obtain, these fuels become more expensive and difficult to produce. In addition to the expense, burning natural gas and oil in our heating systems also causes air pollution and contributes to global warming. In many cases even electric space heaters cause air pollution because the electricity is generated when fossil fuels are burned in an electric power plant.

It's simply good for everyone to minimize our use of non-renewable, carbon based energy and move toward renewable options such as solar energy.

Passive Solar Heating vs. Active Solar Heating Systems?

We can collect solar energy in one of two basic ways. The first and most simple way is called Passive Solar heating. Passive solar installations rely on simple construction and location techniques to enable the building to be heated using the sun's rays instead of using solar panels or other mechanical means. Active solar systems employ mechanical devices to trap, store and move the solar generated heat within a house, office or factory. The most basic of passive solar energy elements is to design ones building with the majority of the windows facing toward the sun (the south in the northern hemisphere) allowing the sunlight to enter and heat the room. Other elements of passive solar space heating include choosing dark coloured flooring and furniture which attract the heat and curtains or awnings that block out the sunlight when the room when the room becomes too warm. Active solar typically involves the use of solar panels (solar collectors) to collect the heat and to move it to the parts of the home where it is stored or needed.

The use of solar energy offers huge potential for natural resource and climate protection, and for the expansion of renewable energies on the road to a future-oriented energy supply.

- MARGARETA WOLF, Jun. 20, 2004

What are solar panels?

Solar panels or collectors are devices designed to capture the sun's rays to produce heat. Most solar panels consist of boxes or frames that contain several basic parts:

  • clear covers that let in solar energy
  • dark surfaces that attract or soak up heat
  • insulating materials to prevent the heat from escaping
  • ducts or pipes that carry the heated air or fluid from the panel and to supply cooler air or fluid

The solar panels are most often located on the roof or side walls of a house or building, again facing toward the sun in the south.

How do we make use of the collected heat?

Once heat is collected using solar panels it is carried out of the panel in either fluid or air. If the system uses fluid, the fluid may be stored for future use, or it may be piped thru radiators within the building where it will give off the heat into the room. It may also be pumped into heat exchangers which do the same job as radiators but do it using fans and ducts.

In installations where the solar panels heat air, the air is often forced, using fans into the rooms of the house or building. In some systems they simply rely on convection to move the warm air out of the solar panel and into the rooms to warm them.

The benefits of solar heat:

Research shows that the average Canadian household spends more than $2,800 per year in heating costs. With the continued depletion of fossil fuels, (oil, natural gas, and propane) those heating costs are guaranteed to continue to rise. In addition to the cost of fossil fuels, there is the always present concern of climate change (global warming) that is hugely effected by burning such fuels.

By implementing a solar space heating system in your home or business, you are able take advantage of the sun's abundant and always free energy. With the only real cost being the purchase price of your solar heating system, you can significantly reduce your annual fuel bills. By amortizing the initial hardware and installation cost over several years, you will see a significant savings for years to come.

Additionally, since most solar collectors are rated, tested, and certified safe and effective, your newly installed solar space heating system may qualify you for financial incentives. Many local, municipal, provincial and federal governments offer rebates and interest free loans to offset the installation of your new system.


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