Solar Space Heater Demonstration

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Sun RiseThe main focus of the project is the installation and demonstration of solar space heaters. The original proposal was to install two solar heaters - one heater in a private residence, and one in a community-based building, for example, a pre-school - and to continuously evaluate the performance of the heaters during the course of the project.
Two solar heaters have now been installed thanks to Sustainable Ingenuity (more details).  We still hope to find funding to install and evaluate a solar heater in a retrofit application in an older style building.

Solar space heating is one of the simplest ways to harness energy from the sun. The solar heater is basically a rectangular box fixed to the roof or north-facing wall which collects energy from the sun to heat air, which is then circulated into living areas of the house. They provide a useful alternative or supplement to passive solar designed homes. The current proposal will base the heater design on the model built by Ron Lee in Melbourne, and described in Alternative Technology's ReNew magazine  in 1999.

Active Solar Heating

The solar space heater is an example of Active Solar Heating, since the heated air is drawn through the collecter using a small fan. This compares with Passive Solar Heating where the circulation of heated air depends on natural convection.
There are two types of active solar heaters

Solar space heaters can be very effective at reducing overall heating requirements. The heater developed by Ron Lee supplements a gas-heated ducted-air system in his home in Melbourne. Except on the coldest days, the gas heating is only required in the mornings. Ron estimates the solar heater reduces the family's heating costs by about 25%. He expects this could be reduced even further by improving the efficiency of the heater. Solar Heater
Aerial view of Ron Lee's Solar Collector
(in centre of picture below)       Side view (-->)

Click for larger image A company based in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Sustainable Ingenuity, have also been developing a solar heater, with a more advanced design than Ron Lee's heater. They have put considerable effort into selecting the materials for the collector and glazing. The heater is currently under trial, and we look forward to the evaluation results. This design features a 'smart fan', which optimises the heating and circulation of the air. There is also an option to include thermal storage using phase-change materials. The picture on the right shows one their demonstration heaters on trial in the Blue Mountains.  Sustainable Ingenuity have now installed two of their heaters in Armidale (more details).
An ambitious do-it-yourself home solar heating project was featured in a recent issue of ReNew magazine. By transforming the north-facing roof of his house into one large solar collector, John Hermans built a combined solar hot water and space heating system. More details...


Another recent commercial prototype (Sun Lizard) is from Alternative Fuels and Energy in Melbourne. Their box solar heater can also be used for space cooling in summer.

For more information on solar heating, have a look at the resources page.

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Page created on Thursday, 9 August 2001.

Created by  Solar Armidale Project.