Heating your home with solar energy is no longer a theme of a science fiction movie. Energy efficient homes are able to harness the power of the sun to provide cost-effective renewable energy to heat and cool your home. If you own an older home, it may not be “solar power friendly,” but fret now, you can still use solar energy to help warm your home and reduce the reliance on your furnace.
Passive solar energy does not require the use of solar panels, batteries, converters, or any other special equipment, rather it relies on the natural power of the sun. Newer homes are being built to utilize passive solar power by including large sun-facing windows, stone floors, and brick walls that help absorb and retain heat from the sun.
If your home has well-insulated windows, leave your blinds and curtains open to allow the sun to pour in, naturally warming the air inside. You may have heard this referred to as the “greenhouse effect” and it works pretty well as long as your windows are in good repair and not allowing a draft to enter. Putting up plastic sheeting can help reduce drafts and allow sun to still enter. Leave doors open and reverse ceiling fans to help circulate the warmed air throughout your home.
If you want to maximize passive solar heating as much as possible, you can place large drums of water beneath the window to absorb the sunlight and warm, providing warmth for the entire room. Painting the wall opposite the window a flat black will allow the wall to retain the heat from the sun rays and naturally warm the room a few degrees.
If you are not into having drums of water or flat black walls and allowing the sunlight to come in does not warm your home enough, you can invest in active solar power.
Active solar power requires the use of devices, such as panels to collect solar energy and convert is to usable energy. Most commonly, photovoltaic solar panels are what is used on the roof of homes to collect solar power. These panels collect sunlight and convert it into DC power. Using a converter, it is then transferred into usable AC power to run a heater in your home.
It is a good idea to leave a traditional heating system in place as a backup if you live in an area that has dramatically reduced sunlight or routinely has several cloudy days in a row. Current active solar heating systems can provide 40-80% of your home’s heating power. Using solar power to heat your home is not only environmentally friendly, but is pocketbook friendly as well! Although the initial investment of an active solar power system may be more than your current electric bill, the return on investment is much higher than buying a new furnace. Solar energy isn’t subject to inflation the way gas or electricity is, so you can prepare for a much more constant bill.