1991 - Volume #15, Issue #6, Page #16[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Build yourself a low cost solar panel
Grieder removed a basement window and replaced it with a 1/2-in. plywood insert. A pair of 8-in. dia. insulated flexible ducts run through the window, carrying hot air from the solar panel to the regular house heating ducts. An old furnace blower mounted in-side the basement circulates hot air from the panel throughout the house. A thermostat turns the blower on and off.
"It doesn't replace my furnace, but it adds a lot of supplemental heat and costs far less than $2,000 to $3,000 commercial solar panels, most of which heat water and re-quire a lot of work to install. My solar panel is simple to install, almost maintenance-free and anyone can build it. I just set it up in the fall and store it in my garage in the summer."
The shell of the 10-ft. long, 36-in. high solar panel is made from 2 by 8 boards painted gray and then sealed with silicone. The boards support three double panes of glass removed from storm windows. The windows are separated by a 3/4-in. wide gap. A 1/4-in. plywood sheet under the glass is painted black to absorb sunlight and is insulated on the back side with two layers of 3/4 in. styrofoam. Six 2-in. dia. pipes run the length of the panel between the glass and plywood. Air pulled through and around the pipes is sucked out one end of the solar panel by the furnace blower while air from inside the house is drawn into the other end of the panel. An oven-type thermometer in one corner of the collector is used to monitor air temperature inside the panel.
"On partly cloudy to sunny days, the blower runs about cycles of 20 min. on, 20 min. off, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.," says Grieder. "It maintains an air temperature of 90 to 110 degrees during the `on' cycle. The weather can be zero degrees outside, but if it's sunny the blower will still run. When air inside the panel cools down to 90 degrees, the blower shuts off."
The panel is free to swivel on stakes, allowing Grieder to adjust it as winter progresses to keep it at a 90 degree angle to the sun's rays for maximum solar intake. He simply loosens a bolt on each stake, swivels the panel, and retightens the bolts.
"The size of my panel was determined by the size of glass I had available," says Grieder. "The bigger the glass area, the more heat you get. There's no vacuum between the panels, but they're sealed as tight as possible. Two air holes between panels relieve any pressure that might build up."
Grieder sells plans to build the solar panel.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dave Grieder, Rt. 1, Box 11, Carlock, Ill. 61725.
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