Press Release 22 July 2002

Community warming to solar heaters

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Two Sunlight heaters (as featured on the 14th June edition of Better Homes and Gardens), were installed in Armidale this week. University Flats was the first to enjoy the benefits of clean, pollution-free heating, followed by a classroom at Minimbah Aboriginal school. The heaters were provided in one case for the cost of materials and in the other case free of charge by Sustainable Ingenuity, a firm based in the Blue Mountains.

Armidale - which often enjoys fine and sunny days in winter, has a great climate for solar heating. These demonstration installations will help establish how well the heaters perform here, and whether changes e.g. to the size of the collector panels would be advantageous.

Unlike photovoltaic systems which have high cost and relatively low efficiency, solar home heaters use the sun's rays shining through a transparent cover to heat a narrow airspace on the roof. The warm air is then circulated into the building by a small fan. Thermal storage was added in the University Flats system to retain heat for release during the evening. The Minimbah system, used only during the day, did not need thermal storage. The children will monitor air temperatures in the heater to record how well it performs.

Dorothy Robinson, of the Armidale Environment Coalition, said that this represents a wonderful opportunity for Armidale residents to see for themselves the benefits of solar heating. We have made the news recently because of our air pollution. Solar heating provides a real opportunity for a clean, cheap, environmentally friendly alternative. Every day, 25 times as much solar energy falls on Australia as we use in an entire year. By making better use of this free source of heat, we'd avoid the damage woodsmoke has been found to cause to our health, the damage to our wildlife deprived by firewood collection of hollow logs for homes, and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions so helping prevent climate change.

Dorothy also called on the State Government to extend the subsidies for photovoltaic systems and solar water heaters to solar home heating. Solar heaters are much more efficient at transferring heat into living areas than photovoltaic systems, so have tremendous potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. In colder regions such as Armidale, home heating emits considerably more greenhouse gases than water heating so offering a subsidy for solar heating would be more cost effective than that for solar water heating or photovoltaic systems.

Solar heating is definitely the way of the future. There's no pollution, no greenhouse gas emissions, and the energy is free!

Media Interviews by arrangement: phone Dorothy Robinson 02 67 73 3209 or Ed Campell 02 67 73 2196, 67 72 6475
For information on the potential for solar heating see the Solar Armidale webpage