The energy of the sun is what keeps the earth warm and sustains life so it is only natural to try and utilize it at home to provide heat and energy.
Doesn’t it seem crazy to consume fossil fuels to generate steam to drive a turbine that produces electrical power and then send it along cables and transformers over miles of land to finally get to our homes even though the sun is shining outside our door?
But it’s not very easy to generate electricity cheaply from solar power because solar cells are expensive because they are made from large silicon wafers. However, what is easy to do is to harness the heat from the suns rays. This makes a lot of sense than using electricity that we get from solar power to create heat.
To obtain heat, we need a solar collector of some kind. This might be a panel, a double-glazed window, a vacuum tube or a mirror assembly.
The window is the easiest option where a South-facing room gathers heat from the sun to warm that section of the house. The double-glazing doesn’t block the incoming light but creates an insulating layer of air to keep the heat inside the room.
Solar water heaters often use panels for warming water. They are relatively easy to construct and are unsophisticated in terms of technology. Basically, a pump circulates water that flows over the surface of the panel through a pipe that travels through a lagged water tank that stores the warm water for use by the household.
More advanced systems utilize vacuum tubes that absorb solar energy and conduct this heat to water which is circulated in a similar fashion as with solar panels. The vacuum prevents loss of the collected heat via convection, making these systems more efficient and smaller than the equivalent flat panel.
Finally, a curved mirror may be used to direct the solar energy from a large area onto a smaller surface such as a water pipe. But this requires tracking of the sun as the earth spins to keep the light in focus.
But to make best use of solar energy, the design of the house really needs to lend itself to efficient heating, insulation and ventilation. This involves orientation of windows and walls, planning of the living areas and climate control systems.
You can read more about solar energy and alternative energy at SolarWindBuilder.com