Solar Heat | Print |
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Saturday, 03 April 2010 10:13

Our south-facing roof is where the sun does its work. There are two areas side-by-side: solar thermal for hot water/heating and photovoltaic for electricity.

Solar thermal:

The water that is circulated in the roof is stored in two 500-gallon tanks in the basement. When the temperature on the roof is 10 degrees higher than the water stored in the tanks, pumps circulate the stored water to the roof to be heated. The pumps shut down when both temperatures are equal. The water temperature is raised some 30 degrees in the dead of winter and 65 degrees in the summer, or from 249,000 BTUs to 539,500 BTUs!

Even during periods of high thin clouds the system will work, though not as efficiently. The diagram on the right is from industry guru Michael Potts. Two pumps are required to raise the water from the basement to the top of the roof. One of them turns off after the natural siphoning process takes over. A visual indicator registers how much water is being circulated in the system--great fun to watch.

Here is one of our two "megatanks" used to store the solar-heated water. My wife Debbi quickly embraced the idea as well as the tank. We are now harvesting the sun's energy to keep the interior warm. This is a significant milestone in our lives--a goal finally achieved after 25 years of dreaming and planning.

The radiant tubing in the floors was covered with 1 1/2 inches of light concrete, then layered with oak. The floors are pleasantly warm to the feet and the heat is evenly distributed throughout the house...slowly rising, naturally.

During the coldest days of winter, the sun seems to shine with unusual brilliance. While neighbors worry about a rising heating bill (we know the feeling having once lived in an electric-heated house), we can accept the sun's gift without any state or federal taxes.

The solar-heated water also provides the basis of our hot tap water as well as circulating through the radiant tubing in the first and second floors of the house. Propane provides any necessary backup as well as gas for cooking and clothes drying.

System Design

The mastermind behind the design of the solar radiant heating system is Eric Olsen of EarthStar Energy Systems. He recently revisited our home to "tweak" the technology. What a masterful system it is, now that we've received his thorough and simple explanation of how it all works!

Eric can be reached at 434-981-5139. Click This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for his email address.

He has written a powerful mission statement.


Solar Thermal CompanyTo influence the structures which influence behavior.
To remove the boundary between the indoor and outdoor environment to help force a vital reunion between Earth and Spirit.
To design, build and demonstrate biodynamic shelters and to conduct ongoing research and education in living technologies.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 20:48