How to Use Your Roof as a Solar Space Heater in 2018

With just a little ingenuity, you can turn your roof into a solar space heater that will serve you well during the cold months. Solar space heating systems are a very cost effective way of heating your home and can be used alongside your typical fossil-fuel run HVAC system to help you save on heating costs.

It should be stated, however, that to get the most out of your solar space heater, your home needs to be properly insulated in the first place. Let's take a quick look at how you can turn your roof into a solar space heater.

Turning Your Roof Into a Solar Space Heater

Although this is something you can probably do yourself, it is often best to consult with a professional who specializes in solar energy and its components just to make sure that you get everything done in the most effective and efficient manner. That being said, here is a glimpse at how solar space heaters work and how you can turn your roof into one:

  • You need an existing hydronic-based heating system: Solar space heaters work well with an existing hydronic-based (hot water) heating system. Installed solar collectors will circulate the ideal fluid (corn glycol) through the solar array, and this is where the fluid is heated and then passed back to the solar storage tank.
  • The water heats up in the storage tank: As the heated corn glycol circulates through the storage tank, it heats up the water that is already in the storage tank. If your system is running efficiently, the water temperatures within the tank could rise to 130F - 175F.
  • Your heat exchanger comes into play: Typically, when you are using a hydroponic-based heating system, there is already water within that heating system, and this water goes through the system and settles in key areas such as a radiant floor system. This space heater system utilizes this water by circulating it through a heat exchanger which is in the storage tank and heating it up as it goes through the system.

As this water passes through the heat exchanger, it gets warmed up and then passed back through the system to the radiant floors where they emit the necessary heat thus keeping your HVAC system off the grid. Either that or it significantly reduces the number of times your HVAC systems come on to warm up the house. At this point, your home is essentially being heated up by solar power.

Having a heat exchanger ensures that you can use your solar space heater to warm your showering water as well as the water you use for other functions around the home; this comes in particularly handy during the summer months when you might not want to overuse your heating system in an attempt to save on costs.

This is just one example of how you can turn your roof into a solar space heater. Most of these systems are custom-made for specific homes with specific needs. That is why you need to consult a professional before trying to set one up.

The Necessary Components of a Solar Space Heating System

The Necessary Components of a Solar Space Heating System

Some components simply must be part of this system for it to work. The most important include:

  • Solar evacuated tube collectors: This is the primary component necessary if you turn your roof into a solar space heater. They are almost exclusively used in this kind of system.
  • Solar storage tank: These solar storage tanks store the heat collected from the evacuated tubes to be used at any given time.
  • Solar pump: This is what circulates the fluid through your evacuated tube collectors and your solar storage tanks.
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    Solar controls: These ensure that your system is running efficiently.

There are a number of other necessary components, the extent of which will vary with your specific needs.

Different Applications for Solar Space Heater Systems

As we have already mentioned, solar space heaters can be applied in a wide variety of home heating systems. Here are some of the most effective ways to use solar space heaters to warm up your home:

Radiant Floors

We have already touched a bit on solar heating with radiant floors and this is one of the simplest solar heating systems you can set up in your home. Radiant floors use very minimal (low to medium) temperatures to heat up a specific space directly. Many radiant floors only use water that is between 90F - 120F as an effective heat source.

A properly set up solar space heater on your roof can provide you with water that is in excess of 140F; this makes this system perfect for radiant floor heating systems. You can size your solar water heating system in such a way that it subsidizes your daily heating needs and cuts down your heating costs by as little as 20% or as much as 80%.

FHA (Forced Hot Air) Systems

A typical FHA system uses heaters run by electricity or propane to heat up the air in your home. By hiring a professional to outfit your ducts with hot water coils instead, you can effectively replace that electricity or propane with hot water heated by your solar space system. This essentially transforms your FHA system into a solar-powered heating system that uses very little electricity (to run the fan) and saves you tremendous amounts of money.

Low-Temperature Baseboards

Low-Temperature Baseboards need water that is between 120F - 140F which your solar space heating system can easily provide. This system, however, can only be used to heat up your home during the day which can help you save up to 50% of your original heating costs.

Turning your roof into a solar space heating system is one of the most cost-effective ways to heat up your home. Not only is it much cheaper, but it is also cleaner and more environmentally friendly.

While one of the most common deterrents to this sort of set up is the initial cost, you should know that this kind of system can quickly pay its own way in a matter of months. These payments will come in the form of all the savings you will be making on your heating bill.

Solar Glass: Can You Turn Your Windows into Solar Panels in 2018?

We will have solar power for as long as the sun will be shining. That is one of the biggest advantages of having a renewable energy source; it is inexhaustible. Given the fact that more and more of the world has become concerned with how much we are dependent on coal and gas plus the negative effects that they have on the environment, it was only a matter of time until everyone's eyes turn to cleaner, more environmentally friendly power sources like solar.

The Problem with Solar Energy

The problem with solar energy is that most people think that the traditional solar panels necessary to harness the sun’s rays are a little bulky and unsightly. Some people who live in apartment buildings do not have roofs nor compounds on which they can mount these solar panels (at least not without going through lengthy debates with their homeowners’ associations trying to get permits).

Solar power uses photovoltaic cells to harness the sun's energy and then converts that energy into the electricity we use. The photovoltaic cell uses a semiconductor which absorbs radiation to emit electrons which are then used to power our homes and industries. While solar energy is being used widely across the globe, there are several limitations to this technology:

  • Solar panels have to be oriented in such a way as to face the sun directly to get the most out of its energy so as to optimize production
  • Solar panel installation can be problematic depending on the building and terrain
  • Photovoltaic cells have a limited level of efficiency
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    The implantation of solar panels in an urban setting where space is limited can be problematic

Another major concern is that the initial costs of installing solar panels and re-configuring your home's wiring can be a little steep. Other than that, it is safe to say that many people would prefer solar energy so long as they get to do everything they are doing now only at a cheaper rate.

Turning Your Windows Into Solar Panels

Since so much attention is now being paid to renewable energy sources, scientists and environmental technology researchers have found a way to improve solar technology. Today, there is new technology that allows you to convert your windows into solar panels without ruining their aesthetic value.

How Does Turning Your Windows into Solar Panels Work?

How Does Turning Your Windows into Solar Panels Work?

For years now, researchers have been fiddling with this technology to limited success. While turning windows into solar panels are very practical, there were some limitations - mainly the fact that they could only do so with colored glass which meant that the windows would have to be tinted and that isn't always appealing.

Glass can typically be produced in several colors namely black, green, blue, red and a handful of other colors. However, these colors directly affect the efficiency of the resulting solar power output differently. Averagely, we could only get about 12% efficiency from colored glass.

Researchers from Michigan State University recently announced that they had found a way to create solar glass that is transparent. This is a complete game changer! While this technology is still some ways away from the mass market, several approaches have been taken by a wide variety of companies focusing on turning your windows into solar panels.

Different Types of Solar Window Panels

Here are some of the options you have when it comes to solar window panels:

Solar Panel Blinds 

Although these do not technically qualify as windows, they are a big part of your window treatment which makes them count as such. There is a company that is currently crowdfunding their efforts to transform your blinds into solar power harnessing panels. The idea is to install tiny solar panels on window blinds that can be hung either on the inside or the outside of your windows. These blinds are programmed to move in the direction of the sun to ensure maximum solar energy absorption during the day.

Physee Power Windows

Physee has successfully installed solar windows today. These windows, however, do not exactly use the same technology invented by the researchers at MSU. Instead, they install small solar panels at the edges of the window panes. The test subject was a Dutch bank that has over 300 square feet of these power windows. Although these windows generate enough power to charge smartphones several times a day, they do not act as a standalone source of power for the entire building as yet.

Clearly it is only a matter of time before this technology is fully discovered and optimized to turn windows into solar panels. The advantage this brings is that it will allow huge skyscrapers to become beacons of power generation without ruining their aesthetic value. This means that each building, depending on the surface area available to turn its windows into solar panels, could begin producing its own power independently.

Finding the Best Solar Solutions for Your Home and Office

Although solar windows are a wonderful idea, the technology is still very much in its infancy and could take years, even decades, before it is fully explored and commercialized. That, however, doesn't mean that you should give up on trying to utilize clean, renewable energy. The cost of installing traditional solar panels on your property is falling at a high speed as more and more companies venture into the renewable energy market.

The best way to find out how to make use of solar power in your home and office is to contact a professional who will give the property a thorough look over and evaluation. Based on this assessment, you will learn how the different options that you could explore; whether to have solar panels installed on your roof or on the grounds and so on. You will also get an estimation on the efficiency levels of your soon to be installed solar panels.

As the technology grows, so do your options. In the meantime, you could try out the solar power blinds.