About Do-It-Yourself Home Solar Energy

Don't let the cost of commercial solar power systems keep you from using green energy at home. Try these tips for DIY solar panels, solar hot water systems, and solar ovens.

About Do-It-Yourself Home Solar Energy
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Passive Heating
One of the simplest ways to do your own solar heating is by building a passive solar heating system. Passive solar energy requires little or no additional energy input such as fans or pumps to work. It collects sunlight and uses it directly for heating. The most basic example is a south-face window: according to Build It Solar, a south-facing window can be as efficient for adding heat to a space as a commercial solar panel on your roof. You should include a way to insulate the window at night to avoid heat loss and a way to shade it during the summer to prevent overheating then.Another simple type of passive solar heating that you can easily build yourself is a thermosyphon system. This takes advantage of the natural flow of air current: hot air rises because it is less dense than cold air. You can build a collector out of polycarbonate panels that will allow sunlight in. Vents at the top and bottom of the collector will allow cold air to flow in the bottom, rise as it is heated, and then out the top back into the room. To keep the heat in at night, use flaps to close the vents. In a building that is well insulated, this system can heat a large space such as a workshop very effectively.An important component of any passive solar system is thermal mass. You must have enough mass to insulate the building so it will maintain its temperature effectively, since passive solar systems will take time to heat or cool. You can use a variety of materials to create thermal mass, including stone, mud, straw and even water.
Active Heating
You can also heat space by building an active solar heating system. Although these systems are more complex than passive systems, you can build many of them yourself with basic materials. One simple method uses water to heat space such as a home or a workshop. You heat the water in a storage tank using solar heat, and then you pump the water through the walls of the building to heat it.
Solar Cooking and Food Preservation
A second way that you can use solar energy for your home energy use is by building a passive solar oven for cooking food. There are many simple designs for solar ovens, and most of them use cheap materials that are easy to obtain. The basic idea of a solar oven is to use reflective surfaces such as mirrors or metal to concentrate sunlight onto the cooking surface where you place the food.You can also use sunlight to dehydrate and preserve food. You can build a solar food dehydrator from very simple materials; you can make one for free using cardboard boxes and plastic wrap. A solar food dehydrator functions by concentrating sunlight onto the food (you can do this by painting the cardboard black) and allowing airflow through vents as the food dries.
Resources
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Build It Solar