Whenever people think about solar energy, their mind almost always rushes to solar panels – but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. As a mater of fact, using solar energy for heating is much more cost-effective than using it for electricity.
There are two major types of solar heaters: solar air heaters and solar water heaters. Air heaters are simple as pie to built – I’ve built a couple myself. They usually capture the sun’s heat through an absorbing medium and then direct it to heat the air in your house, shed, garage, etc. They can be built on walls, roofs and even windows, and they are, generally speaking, made of an absorbing medium, insulation to prevent the heat from dissipating, and a system to transport the heated air inside. The heat collector can even be built of an aluminum foil painted black, and insulated with foam or silicone. You have to understand that it cannot supply all the heating by itself, but it does the job in a similar fashion to hybrid car engines – only better.
Solar water heating is used on a much wider scale than solar air heating. It is almost mandatory for new buildings in Japan to have such devices, and they are used extensively in Greece, China, Australia, Israel, and many other countries. The principle is similar, but the device itself is more complicated – probably due to the fact that it has been used for a longer time, and the technology was better developed. As a matter of fact, the technology is so well developed that in Northern Europe, solar water heaters are actually used to heat homes as well. This is a perfect sollution not only for persoal use, but also for industrial use, where parabolic mirrors are often used to collect and concentrate the sun’s rays. In most houses where it is used, solar water heating can account for 85% percent of all water heating, so even though it cannot fully heat all your water, it can definitely take care of the vast majority.
Solar energy, in all its forms, is the future; as years come and go, humanity starts to pay more and more attention to it, a practically limitless resource with the potential to power up a big part of society. The US is quite behind in this area compared to other countries, but that doesn’t mean you should too; these simple technologies will not only save you money in the long run, but they will also help the environment, paving the way for a greener tomorrow.
Photo by Sterling College