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gbwillson

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Reply with quote  #11 
Sam-

Check Craig's List for used solar heaters. I've seen plenty, for either cheap or free. They my be old and require some minor fixing. The most common need is often new glazing, as plastics can yellow or haze over time. And with the glazing removed, you can fix up anything needed inside.

And I would hesitate asking anyone, regardless of claimed skills to build something they have never built before. Building anything for the first time takes far longer than subsequent builds.  I could easily build a 4x8 heater in a weekend, with half of that time waiting for paint or adhesive to dry. But my first heater took much, much longer, even though I'm an experienced DIYer, and knew exactly how to build one. Even at $20/hr, the labor will add up fast. And labor is the big reason few companies would make solar heaters. Sure, they use quality materials, but a DIYer can too. Most of the pre-built heater units are only offered in a couple of different sizes, whereas building your own custom unit, can be tailored to the specific location where it is being installed. Pre-fab companies could never afford a custom build. Heck, look how much their mass produce units cost!

You can look up online the exact angle of the sun above the horizon at any time of year. On the winter solstice, the sun is roughly 22˚ above the horizon here in Minneapolis where I live. I have quite a few trees for the sun to pass through at than time of year. But a couple of weeks either side of the solstice, the sun is above most of the trees. You still will get heat through any empty branches, although diminished.

Rick mentioned a great reminder about making sure the envelope of your home is tight. While the proper amount of insulation in an attic is very important. It's even more important to seal any bypasses, or air leaks. Any air leaks between the attic and the living space must be sealed. The average home has the equivalent of air leaks equal to an open window...Think about that for a moment. Kinda hard to keep the heating bills down if there is a window open all the time. The second most important location for air leaks is where the house meets the foundation. This area is also called the rim joist. Any air leaking into the attic pulls the equivalent amount of frigid air in through the rim joist and any other air leak in the home. Sealing air leaks is very easy to do and inexpensive. It only makes sense to try and keep the warm air separated from the frigid outside air. Otherwise it reminds me of my cousin who lives in Michigan. She never wears a hat or gloves, only wears sneakers, and her winter coat is never zipped up. And yet, she is always complaining about being cold. Go figure...

Ask your utility company if they offer a home energy audit. It might cost $75 or less, depending on your income. The audit can help locate any problem areas, and make recommendations to help you reduce your energy bills. The audit often includes an infra-red viewing and photos of your home, to further specify air leak locations. Well worth the cost!

Greg in MN

Gordy

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Reply with quote  #12 
Some of you may have seen this page. http://www.pelletheat.org/compare-fuel-costs
You can enter your heaters efficiency and fuel costs to make comparisons per the 1 million BTU's.

Gordy

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Gordy,
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samschaperow

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Reply with quote  #13 
Rick H Parker, you said: "In a different era, one could of made it a shop class project or a series of shop class projects for high school students. Just beware of the "handyman" that failed shop class. "

Amazingly, I may have found that different era.  I talked to a local technical high school who said if I can get them a blueprint and materials, then they may be able to fabricate much of what I need for a nominal fee.  I've spent quite some time looking for blueprints, but I can't seem to find any (I thought I saw them several months ago, though).  Can anyone please provide me with a link to blueprints so I can forward them to the shop class and see if they'll be able to do it?]

gbwillson (Greg): Thanks; I did look on craigslist, but didn't find it. 

Sam in CT
gbwillson

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Reply with quote  #14 
Sam-

Unfortunately, I've never seen plans, much less blueprints on this site. I have seen them online for a nominal fee. But with every home and build requirement being different, plans would be quite restricting. So let's look at this as if you are going to have a collector built for you and your home. 

First, how large of an area of your home are you trying to heat? Heating a room is one thing, heating an entire floor or home requires a much larger heater. A small heater can fit easily below a window, while a whole-house unit will be much larger.

So if you can give us some idea as to your needs, perhaps we can help you with parts and ideas for a collector.

A basic solar heater is basically an insulated black box, with a clear cover, and an absorber to transfer heat from the sun to the air passing through the heater box. So it is not a complicated project for the average DIY'er, especially when you have online help from people who have experience building heaters of their own. But if this is beyond your abilities, tools, or workspace for that matter, looking at the school for labor help is a great idea. Maybe they could build a solar heater for themselves as a class project, while at the same time building one for you. Decide what your needs are so we have an idea as to the size and materials needed. Then you can find out what would work best for you and the school can give you an idea as to the labor costs.

Greg in MN
Rick H Parker

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Reply with quote  #15 
Amazingly, I may have found that different era.
I've spent quite some time looking for blueprints, but I can't seem to find any

In them days we would take paper and pencil then draw the blueprints.


Then you can find out what would work best for you and the school can give you an idea as to the labor costs.

The schools don't charge for labor, just the materials or you can supply the materials and the school will do the craftsmanship for you. The idea is, the students get hands-on experience without the overhead cost of materials. You get a custom piece for the cost of materials, win-win.


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Rick H Parker
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samschaperow

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Reply with quote  #16 
Ty for the replies.

The closest I came to blueprints was: http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/SpaceHeating/SolAirHtSysBook/SolAirHtingBk.htm Under chapter 8 are three direct links that show the diagrams for making it. 
A how-to video I found was:


Area to heat:
Wouldn't anyone in a northern climate want to heat as much of their house as possible?  I'd think as much sunny wall as I can cover would make the most sense, or are there some downsides to going all out?  I've attached a pic of the south side of my house.  It was taken at 11:50AM.P1080723.JPG 

The school was quite clear they have a labor charge, but that it is nominal. 

Gordy

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Reply with quote  #17 
Sam,

"Wouldn't anyone in a northern climate want to heat as much of their house as possible?"

Yes, But (see below)

"I'd think as much sunny wall as I can cover would make the most sense, or are there some downsides to going all out? "

The down side to going "all out" is over heating on days with moderate to warm outdoor temps. This problem was brought up in a recent post on another thread. You would need to vent excess heat to the outside or figure out a storage system to collect the heat to be released later as needed. Simply shutting the fans down will cause the collector to stagnate and over heat.

Gordy

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Gordy,
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stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #18 
Agree what do you do in moderate weather? You risk overheating the house, and if you shut the collectors off you overheat (possibly damage) them. And then there's cost.


Blueprints may not be available but this video by Julian Jameson is close. If I were into air collectors it's probably what I'd build.
https://simplysolar.supporttopics.com/post/show_single_post?pid=1284637826&postcount=47&forum=282856

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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay
samschaperow

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Reply with quote  #19 
Oh my:  Now I may be more confused.  So, I thought these collectors would be installed permanently, thus in the summer they would still be there but not sending their heat into the house.  You're saying on a warm day (I've seen 60s as highs in the winter on occasion) shutting the fans could cause overheating (that's bad?) and damage (most materials used would be damaged?), but what happens in the summer, then? 

BTW, I would see venting as good because indoor air quality is typically worse (radon being a big culprit even with levels in the government safety zone) than outdoor, so to open a window to release hot air would be good (assuming it is cold enough outside to make this an easy solution).  I am in CT, as I've mentioned, so we do get pretty cold for about 6 months per year, but I think your state is cold as well (maybe colder). 
Gordy

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Reply with quote  #20 
Sam,

"Oh my:  Now I may be more confused.  So, I thought these collectors would be installed permanently, thus in the summer they would still be there but not sending their heat into the house."

They can be permanently mounted, but they will need to be covered in some way during the summer. And if you have too many, you will want to have them automated, like with hinged pull up covers for the heating season. If you are hoping to get heat through out the night, you will need a storage set up that will cost money and a lot of floor space.

There are so many possible variations to building these I recommend you take some time to read through some of the old post here, and at builditsolar.com  Seeing what others have done is helpful in making up your mind as to what you want to do.

Gordy

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Gordy,
Minnesota
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