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  1. #1

    Ideas for an Active Solar Heating System

    I'd appreciate any thoughts, advice, or reference material.

    I'm remodeling a 3000 square foot home which currently has only electric radiant heat and poor insulation. I want to go overboard on creating a "green" heating system. I don't mind spending a lot of money now, as long as the system is efficient. I'm expecting energy prices to go up a lot before I move out of this house.

    The rough plan:
    1) Insulate everything better.
    2) Install a normal forced-air system except with an extra heat exchanger upstream of the furnace (see 5).
    3) Collect solar heat with 7 Thermomax panels (over 300 square feet of collector area). These are supposed to work well in cold or even cloudy weather.
    4) Store the heat in 360 gallons of water/antifreeze solution.
    5) Use a separate water loop to carry heat from the storage tanks to heat exchangers in the force-air heater system.

    I have tried to size this so that it will provide all of our heat during most of the year, with only the fan running in the heater system. On the coldest days the furnace (propane fired) will make up the difference. The hot water tanks can also preheat water going to the hot water heater year round.

    We live at 3000 feet altitude in the Sierra Nevada, West of Yosemite National Park. There is a lot of Winter sun, and only occasional snow.

    I'm working with an architect and general contractor who are open-minded, but don't have much experience with nonstandard HVAC systems. I'm just trying to do some "legwork" so they have a good starting point. Any help will be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Langley, BC, Canada
    Posts
    384
    I dont know really anything about solar heat, have never seen it either, except for heating a pool. But you could look at geothermal heatpump as well, with a closed loop system, using glycol as your fluid meadium. You can then use your furnace to overcome the balance point, if it gets really cold.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    SE PA
    Posts
    183
    Yeah, I'd price out a closed loop geothermal system and compare it to the solar system you're considering. A good contractor can tell you what to expect regarding energy consumption etc.. with the system. One thing to keep in mind with geo, it's pretty much standardized and turn-key.....unlike solar, in my opinion.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Posts
    1,213
    Some solar people @ www.heatinghelp.com - be a good idea to check there. Not a beginner job, by the sound of it.

  5. #5
    Thanks - I'll check out geothermal again, as well as heatinghelp.com. More ideas are still welcome, of course.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Nevada
    Posts
    1,815
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ryan View Post
    I'd appreciate any thoughts, advice, or reference material.

    I'm remodeling a 3000 square foot home which currently has only electric radiant heat and poor insulation. I want to go overboard on creating a "green" heating system. I don't mind spending a lot of money now, as long as the system is efficient. I'm expecting energy prices to go up a lot before I move out of this house.

    The rough plan:
    1) Insulate everything better.
    2) Install a normal forced-air system except with an extra heat exchanger upstream of the furnace (see 5).
    3) Collect solar heat with 7 Thermomax panels (over 300 square feet of collector area). These are supposed to work well in cold or even cloudy weather.
    4) Store the heat in 360 gallons of water/antifreeze solution.
    5) Use a separate water loop to carry heat from the storage tanks to heat exchangers in the force-air heater system.

    I have tried to size this so that it will provide all of our heat during most of the year, with only the fan running in the heater system. On the coldest days the furnace (propane fired) will make up the difference. The hot water tanks can also preheat water going to the hot water heater year round.

    We live at 3000 feet altitude in the Sierra Nevada, West of Yosemite National Park. There is a lot of Winter sun, and only occasional snow.

    I'm working with an architect and general contractor who are open-minded, but don't have much experience with nonstandard HVAC systems. I'm just trying to do some "legwork" so they have a good starting point. Any help will be appreciated.
    Sounds interesting, add a solar panel to run the pump and fan and you can run the heat for free during the day.
    Quote
    “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own." Scott Adams

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
    Albert Einstein

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    2,260
    You should set up a web page with this project, update it with journal entries, and pictures. Sounds very interesting. Keep us posted.
    I r the king of the world!...or at least I get to stand on the roof and look down on the rest of yall

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    322
    I've wondered whether a simple device could capture heat stored in my attic in the winter. I have a dark roof, and on a sunny day it is not unusual for the temperature outside to be around 60, inside around 70, and peak of attic 80 or more. Seems like a bathroom fan running in reverse or similar device could move that warm attic air inside the house. You could run existing bath fans to equalize pressure. Maybe add a filter. Why wouldn't this work?

  9. #9

    Project Update - if you could call it that.

    I got a bid from a knowledgeable contractor who has done this sort of work before. The system would include roof panels, 120 gallons of storage, heat exchangers in line with our furnace, and controls. I was impressed by the design, except that I believe it would benefit from double the storage.

    Maybe I was naive, having read about many do-it-yourself projects with small budgets. Still, I was quite shocked to receive a quote of around $xxx. This system seems much simpler (both in labor and materials) than a full HVAC system which you could get for that kind of money.

    The bottom line: we are stubbing out some 1" insulated copper pipes for future use while the walls are open. The rest will wait for another time.

    Steve


    No prices in post.
    Last edited by beenthere; 03-10-2009 at 03:40 PM. Reason: Removed price

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    LONG ISLAND, NY
    Posts
    20
    Before you give up, check to see if what you are planning to do is covered under the new stimulus plan. If it is you might get a 30% credit on the whole job. Also check to see what state rebates you can get for solar hot water and PV

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,687
    Delete the price

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    68,081
    You need to have a very low heat loss if you plan on not using the furnace except on the coldest days.

    Here. With an off peak storage system, 400 gallons is a small storage system.
    And it only needs to heat the house for 12 hours during the day time(The sun is out) before it can regenerate.

    Also. You said you were going to increase your insulation.
    I didn't see any mention that you were tightening up the house to minimize air infiltration. Which is also a major cause of high heating bills.
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  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Nevada
    Posts
    1,815
    Steve,

    Try talking to a LEEDs certified mechanical engineer/designer.
    USGBC will have some info: http://www.usgbc.org/

    Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
    Quote
    “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own." Scott Adams

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
    Albert Einstein

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