For anyone interested in seeing photos of an installation of
commercial "drop-in" passive solar air-heating panels, you're
invited to visit
The pictured installation took less than an hour with a four man
crew and has kept the building "shirtsleeve comfortable" through
Neat, I designed a similar solar preheat system for a college field house,
gymnasium, and 25 meter pool in NH back in 1979, where the HVAC supply air
is brought through 3 banks of 60' black metal ducting (made up of 4" deep
galvanized decking). Worked great, with air on a sunny 0 degree F. day at
about 80 degrees F. at the HVAC intake. The lexan covers however distorted
from the heat and had to be replaced with glass. I gave a talk on this
project at an environmental conference in Norfolk VA. in 1980. Total
additional cost was $48 K. for a 60,000 sf facility.
Thank you. I also built my first panels back in the 70's. There
has been, of course, a fair amount of improvement in the variety
of materials available in the years since. If you're still
interested in the topic, now might be a wizard time to catch up
on technical reading - interest in solar seems to be very much on
the rise again.
Good Lord, 28 years ago. I might have it somewhere in a mouldering box, but
the firm I was with then is long gone. Sorry.
Funny tale about that building, the ducts came in just over the Athletic
Director's office, and he had to work in his shorts to stay cool. Also
during the night condensation would freeze in the ducts above his office,
when the sun came up it would unfreeze and drip onto his desk. Only leaked
on sunny days ;-) We were able to fix both problems with some insulation.
The building had a field house that held 3500 spectators, another full gym,
3 squash courts, offices, a 25 meter 6 lane pool w/ 3 meter board, and
appropriate lockers, showers, etc. Walls were prefinished aluminum insulated
panels. Pool was all cedar clapboards inside with 5' gluelam beams. Heat was
required only on cloudy days and at night when temperatures dropped below
freezing as we did not have a heat storage system. Somewhere I've some
negatives of it. Have to digitize them.
THanks, I think that's very interesting. Would it be structuraklly
possible to use these panels as the major portion of a house structure...?
An additional aspect - how to add solar panels in ways that wouldn't get
you sued by the local suburban "architectural approval board"...
Gotta state the obvious: these panels aren't suitable for use as
load-bearing components. Less obvious: I /can/ build structural
panels, and I've worked out a way to integrate framing _and_
collector, but it'd only make sense for new construction.
Having laid that groundwork, I'll say that incorporating these
panels into a south-facing wall in such a way that they
/appeared/ to be the major portion of that wall would be more
than just "interesting".
Panels in east/west walls will provide heat in morning/evening
which seems attractive until you realize that they'll do that on
a year-round basis. I wouldn't put 'em there without planning to
install covers every spring (and store 'em every fall). Even as
the proud designer/manufacturer, I think I'd rather have
east/west windows. :-)
That, fortunately, hasn't been a problem so far for any of my
customers. If it's like to be an issue for you, I'd suggest
getting favorable resolution before doing the installation.
Just to keep things interesting, it's possible to build other
than black panels if an efficiency hit is acceptable. Use of
colored panels will raise the square footage required to produce
the same amount of heat, but may help in dealing with approval
boards, neighborhood associations, etc.
If that strikes you as interesting, you may enjoy looking over
another web page at
That's what I'd thought, but wanted to check. I think it's a good idea
and also think it'd go well with a "contemporary" or "modern" style
building (in quotes because I'm not sure whethe what i think of as
contemporary or modern is still called that).
In my useage, "interesting" is a high compliment ;) and takes in
everything from "clever and practical idea" to "potentially way-cool
Re: panels specifically for heating, given that ther are things such as
retractible awnings, it shouldn't be that much of a stretch to add in a
recessed retractible Summer cover...
It seems like ther could be something like "heater bricks" - for example
the bricks used on this house are hollow - there are 4 holes inside of
each 9" brick. Seems to me that, for a cold climate, there ought to be a
way of making the bricks out of soomething that collects the sun's heat,
and uses those holes (?piping?) to transfer the heat around. Well, it's
prob just another one of my wacky ideas. It just seems like there
should be a wide variety of ways to take advantage of passive systems -
well, there prob. are, and I don't know what to use as my search
Nifty :) In a hot climate, people still need hot water, so is it way
off-base to think that this might also be applicable to heating water?
Normal houses, esp. in hot humid climates, just seem to me to be
constantly at battle with themselves - even in hot dry climates, where
passive methods work really well, almost all houses are the typical
battelfield between trying to keep the interior cool an ddry, and
creating heat sources for hot water and coooking. IOW, you have ot input
energy to cool, AND energy to cook/wash, AND THEN add even more energy to
cool the place after adding in the heat for cooking and hot water... It
just seems a bit stupid to me.
My taste runs toward streamline modern - and I think it'd be
wonderfully possible to integrate solar panels gracefully into
that kind of design. I'm not sure that anyone would be willing to
accept the result as bearing that same label, but I am sure that
it'd be both efficient _and_ aesthetically pleasing (to me).
Thank you (I took it as a compliment.) The thrust of my remark
was that, depending on the length of that south wall, the space
might end up being considerably warmer in the winter than in the
Of course - but plan on "cover" rather than "awning", because
simply shading these panels isn't enough to turn 'em off. My shop
is in an aircraft hanger and one partly cloudy day I opened the
door (45'W x 12'H), positioned a panel 15' inside the door facing
north, and measured a 7F temperature differential between intake
and discharge flows...
This is a really tough problem! A solution of the type you
suggest /may/ be possible, but probably not with currently
available materials. For a starting point, I'd suggest reading
everything you can root out of Wikipedia on "black body" and
"black body radiation". Warning: the math will make your head
hurt - I came away with a profound respect for Max Planck.
Absolutely. I built the my first two passive panels with
"stealthy" absorbers in the Hudson Valley in early 70's. One
panel was an air heater, and the other was a water heater that
gave me the only burn I've ever had from a flat panel. When I
started building panels full-time I focused on air heaters to
avoid all of the liabilities involved with water-heating
subsystems because there were just too many factors over which I
had no control, but which /could/ bite consumers.
I understand, but the cost of energy use is heat. With major help
from a good friend, I've been working to develop a
multi-horsepower fluidyne engine. The fluidyne is a liquid-piston
Stirling cycle engine whose only moving parts are air and water
(nothing to wear out!).
A Stirling cycle engine has some rather special properties: (1)
if heat energy is applied to its "hot side" and allowed to escape
from its "cold side", it produces mechanical energy, and (2) the
process is reversible - that is, if mechanical energy is applied
to drive the engine, it will /develop/ a hot side and a cold
Our notion is to drive a (first) fluidyne with solar heat energy
to produce mechanical energy, and to then use that mechanical
energy to drive a (second) fluidyne to produce hot and cold
sides. There's no reason to keep the heat from the hot side, but
the cold side becomes the heart of a
refrigeration/air-conditioning unit that runs off (only) solar
If that captures your imagination, you can see a bit more at
The bottom line is that we can have heating and cooling both
without needing either fuel or electricity. I like that, but it
may just be my Scottish background at work. :-D
When I had time, I was more or less a regular on
news:rec.woodworking, and I still keep an eye on
news:alt.energy.renewable, news.alt.energy.homepower, and
news:comp.lang.c - and decided that I'd try to follow current
architectural thinking here. I'm not an architect, so I probably
won't be able to contribute much - but architects exert
considerable influence on my life (and so bear watching <g>).
Probably so - especially if the garage is attached.
I can't even begin to help with the "too much stuff" problem, but
framing rough openings for panels (especially in a garage)
shouldn't be a big deal for most carpenters who know their trade.
It is, of course, easiest in new construction. File the notion
away for retrieval if the costs of heating rise beyond your
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