Generating heat with cheap (or free!) energy

For millions of people heat is way more expensive than power.

In places where heating oil and natural gas availability are limited there are many people that pay nearly $1,000 per month just to keep their home at a reasonable temperature in the winter months.

Fortunately the sun’s rays can provide heat inside and out even during the cloudiest and coldest of days.  In many ways, heating your home with solar is actually easier than powering your home with solar! Here are some easy ways to harness the sun’s radiant heat:

  • Passive solar.  Your windows and window coverings can help heat your home.  Keep the window coverings along the south side of your home open during cold, sunny days.  Keep the north-facing window coverings closed during the day and night to limit heat loss.  Remove trees and obstructions along the south side of your house to keep shading to a minimum.  You can also make sure to plant only deciduous trees, so that there will be less shading in the winter when the leaves are gone, but still have shade during the hot summer months.  I’ve also seen people who have a green houses actually pump the warm air into their homes since they don’t grow as much in the winter months.
  • Solar thermal systems.  If you heat your home with hot water, there are now affordable solar water heating options.  These involve placing a collector on your roof that will collect solar radiation to heat a fluid similar to antifreeze.  As the fluid heats up it is then circulated into a tank where the fluid, without mixing with the water, heats water for use in showering and home heating.  These kits are getting more and more affordable by the day, but do require some plumbing expertise to install.
  • Wood stove.  It may seem a little old fashioned, but they are really making a comeback.  Independent folks are turning back to their roots and finding that cheap timber and clean, efficient stoves mean that you can have extremely affordable heat.  The new stoves are so much cleaner and don’t give off 1/10th of the smoke and soot that the old stoves did.  It also gives you a certain ‘living off the land’ satisfaction and as they say ‘wood heats you twice, once when you cut it and again when you burn it.’
  • Solar air heater.  My favorite way to heat the home with the sun is practically free and super-efficient: the solar air heater. The materials can literally be free if you do it right.  Even if you purchase the materials it should cost you less than $100 for what can provide you free hot air for decades.  They work by creating tubes of air in a solar collector that is installed on the sunny side of a home.  Cool air enters the bottom of the unit and is then heated in the tubes, which allow the air to rise and recirculate into the room.  It’s completely powerless and ingenious.  I know a gentleman in Newfoundland, Canada, certainly one of the cloudiest and coldest spots in the world, who had so much success with this he is now selling, building and installing them for his neighbors.

I bet with some of your creativity and ingenuity you could come up with a way to generate heat using the sun, and tell the gas and oil company you don’t need their high prices and monopolies. Do you have experience with any of these heating methods? Tell me about it in the comments!

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