Passive Solar Heating

Greetings SNH’ers,

I am back with another good way to do things just a bit smarter. Passive solar heating ideas have been around for a long time. If you are new to the concept, then this might spur on a great idea for you!

Passive solar heating uses the sun to heat something without a 3rd party interruption. For example, a passive solar pool cover will help heat the water in your pool by focusing energy from the pool cover directly into the pool. A non-passive method might be using your electric pool heater with energy generated by the solar panels on your home.

Do you have a location around your home that is consistently a few degrees cooler that other portions of the home that you want to heat during the day? You can build a low cost passive heater for these kinds of spaces whether they be a garage, outbuilding or a spare bedroom. All you will need is a 2×4 frame, some clear plexiglass or clear corrugated plastic sheeting, black tubing commonly available at your local hardware store and a bit of time with your construction skills.

Step 1. Build a frame that can sit on the outside of your building that you want to heat.

Step 2. Cut a hole at the top and bottom of your building to support the in and outflow of air from your solar heater. The top will serve as a location for hot air exit, the bottom will serve the cool air entry into your heater. Some folks like to install a mechanical fixture to open and close the vents when they want to “turn on” passive heating in cool weather and “turn off” when weather is warm.

Step 3. Put your tubing into the frame. Weave the tubing from the bottom entry and wind it up to the top of the entry. This will allow the air to heat from the base. As the sun energy heats the air in the tubing it will rise through the tubing gaining additional heat through the frame. Once the tubing is affixed inside the frame, seal it with your plexiglass at the edges of the frame. If you are using the corrugated plastic method, ensure that the ends are sealed. “Great Stuff” sealant can be used for this purpose.

Step 4. Attach the cool side entry of your solar heater with another section of tubing to bottom entry of your building. Do the same for the top.

Step 5. Enjoy the great free heating you get during the daytime. The size of your frame and the volume of the space you intend to heat will determine your performance. I would recommend that an 8’x4’ passive heater frame be used for a 10×10 space for moderate gains. This is a very smart way to save some heating costs on your home during the cool spring and cool fall weather. It can also give your heating system a bit of help in the winter.

One great site with some good examples of a passive solar build can be found here: I like that they take the basic construction a bit farther and make the frame look like it belongs to the home.

This site, a bit more advanced, examines the incorporation of passive heating techniques in building design. This is a great read if you want to take the passive method up a notch.

If you have any pictures of a passive solar heater that you have built, please share them!

Go green with Geothermal!

Greetings SNH’ers,

‘Going Green’ seems to be a topic on a lot of minds lately. I have always been fond of using the available energy we have to maximize the comfort in our homes and maximize the long term dollar in our pocket. This is the geothermal heating and cooling article!

There has been a lot of focus on Solar lately as groups like Enphase build smart charge controllers for your panels, solar panel costs are coming down, installation is getting easier and there are many tax-advantaged incentives for installing solar in your home.

I don’t often see much regarding tapping into the huge thermodynamic heat bath we have sitting right under our houses! Most geothermal heat pumps for homes have nearly double the lifespan of modern heating and cooling equipment according to many manufacturers, but it also takes significantly less power to operate a geothermal heat pump than it does to run other traditional heating like forced air with an electric heat pump or an electric baseboard system.

Geothermal installation may be suited better to new buildings as piping must run either vertically or extend horizontally from the base of your home into the heat battery of the earth. Older homes may require additional costs to retrofit as additional work in the slab may be necessary. The heating and cooling potential for your specific climate does change, but all areas across the United States see a benefit. According to, the payback period is between 2 and 10 years. A system that requires vertical duct-work deep beneath your home will have more labor associated than a system installed with a horizontal trench.

So if you are interested in learning more, I would check out and talk to a local supplier of geothermal installations. Not only will you have a system that uses 40-60% less energy than a traditional HVAC solution, it also helps you sleep better night knowing you made a change that has a lower environmental impact in terms of fossil fuel generation from the electric company and it will give you money back in your wallet to put towards your retirement!

You can watch a great video here:

Have a good night!