Solar Heating Options
Here are some of the things that a solar heating system can do for you:
Underfloor radiant heating in general is enjoying
resurgence in popularity because of the benefits of comfort and energy
Now, for alternative energy, radiant heating is becoming the method
of choice for space heating because it enables low temperature
operation which is important for solar energy collection and also
because the solar energy can be stored efficiently within a
This link can be followed for a more comprehensive study of the
many advantages of radiant heating.
The sun is the mother of all radiant heating systems and its
partnership with mechanical, earthly underfloor radiant systems is a
good thing. There are many benefits to the combination, and this
appreciation has taken the practice of solar heating design to an
entirely new level.
It is most efficient to use solar energy directly
to make underfloor radiant heat. Earlier solar heating systems would
first heat a storage tank and then distribute the stored heat with
radiant heating tubes. When solar energy is used directly to provide
radiant heat, the radiant floor system cannot be used by the backup
heating system as this use would compromise the solar storage. This
method can be used but it is much less efficient than a direct
Here are several specific uses whereby you can combine solar energy
with radiant heating directly.
- Massive Storage A large thermal
storage place is developed by slab on grade construction and strategic
placement of the insulation. This award winning design is called the
Solar Option I and is perhaps the most powerful and useful solar
heating design that is available. (below)
- Installation within joisted floors
- Domestic Hot Water Plus Radiant Heat
- Property protection
- Radiant comfort
- Supplemental Uses
- Snow melting
- Hot tubs and pools
The Solar Option I Heating System
Cost and details.
Domestic Hot Water and Space Heating With Long Term Passive Heat Storage
This is the most powerful of the Radiantec heating systems. It is a "hybrid"
system that combines the best features of "active" and "passive" technologies
while leaving behind their respective disadvantages.
ADVANTAGES AND BENEFITS
A significant advantage of
the Solar Option I system is that it is capable of meeting nearly all of
a residential type building's heating needs, even in quite challenging
climates. Another advantage is exceptionally high efficiency that very
low operating temperatures entail. "Substantial improvements were noted
in system efficiency, overall performance, initial cost and architectural
flexibility. An increase in collector efficiency translates into fewer
solar panels, lowered costs,and easier design integration into accepted
building styles. A large thermal mass, integrated within the building's
structure provides prolonged solar storage, radiant comfort and further
-Report to US Department of Energy
The Solar Option I is applicable to new slab on grade buildings. It uses the
structure's inherent ability to store heat energy and that must be designed
in from the beginning.
The sun will shine upon 7 or more solar collectors. Solar energy will be stored within an 120 gallon
solar storage tank for domestic hot water and within a 2' thick
slab and compacted earth bed for long-term space heating storage.
A very large thermal
storage area is created with slab on grade construction. The storage
area consists of the slab itself and up to two feet of compacted sand
or gravel. The storage detail can have very little or no additional
cost depending upon insulation. Despite reports to the contrary,
there are no annualizing benefits, or storage that carries over from
season to season.
The very large thermal storage area, when coupled to solar
collectors produces high solar collector efficiency, a potential for
high solar heating fractions, reasonable first cost and very good cost
benefits, all within a startling simple design.
Installation within joisted floors
Installation in a joisted floor is a snap in new construction and is also an easy retrofit in an existing home if you have access to your floor joists from below.
The wooden floor system won't store as much energy as a slab system, but it can still store significant heat and will result in a very comfortable and warm floor.
Domestic hot water plus radiant heat
The solar domestic water heater is itself an attractive option. It is
not always convenient to provide the very large heat storage mass that
is used with the Solar Option One. Also, it is not always possible to
install a large number of solar panels. In such cases, a domestic hot
water heater with a supplemental heating potential can have value.
When a less aggressive storage mass is used, such as a topping slab
over plywood, or ceramic floor tiles or even a regular wood floor
system, the floor system can still provide appreciable benefit.
Property protection of seasonal homes
There is abundant domestic hot water when the building is occupied,
and when unoccupied, the solar keeps the building at a minimal
temperature with minimal cost. The floor and building itself can function as
solar storage because a wide range of temperatures is acceptable (i.e. 45-85 degrees F).
Supplemental Radiant Comfort
The floor can be quite cold when the building is under heavy heating load. When the floor is brought up
to warm temperatures, comfort is greatly increased and load is taken off the heating system for lower energy bills.
The Solar Option II Heating System
Cost and details.
The Solar Option II is the most popular heating system because it is so versatile;
a single heating system that can do many things. Solar Option II uses the
sun's energy to make space heat, domestic hot water, and even heat for
swimming pools and snow melting.
It even provides a limited amount of free cooling in the summer.
Solar Option II can be used with both new and retrofit applications.
Solar collectors can be placed on the home itself, or they can also be located
on the garage or outside storage building. Solar collectors can be ground
mounted and landscaped so that they provide privacy and shelter from the
Solar Option II: Low cost, efficient, easy to install, and flexible.
Solar Option II will lower your fossil fuel use to a fraction of what it would
have been. You will often have luxurious amounts of heat and hot
water for free. A high efficiency backup heater makes sure you never run
out. You can use solar energy for snow melting, & and even extend the
season in your pool or garden.
The sun will shine upon 5-6 liquid type solar collectors (4' x 8' typical).
The solar energy will be stored in one or more 80-gallon solar storage
Heat for the building is provided by underfloor radiant heat, the most
comfortable and efficient heat that there is.
In the summer, cold water passes through the floors before it goes to the
fixtures. Heat is taken out of the house for FREE!
Solar Option II will provide most of the domestic hot water and 30-90% of the space heating needs. Higher
solar percentages are possible with additional storage tanks, but cost performance will decrease.
Supplementary Solar Applications
Snow melting is a task that can be accomplished with quite low
temperature solar fluid.
Often this application can be carried out with low grade solar availability that is not
useful for anything else. Mechanically, it is just another radiant heating zone that is
controlled manually with a simple ball valve. It is a good example of an application that
is quite reasonable to accomplish with solar energy that would be somewhat wasteful to
accomplish with fossil fuels.
The gardening application is mechanically similar to snow melting.
Radiant heating tubes are placed in ditches about 1½ ft below the
surface. Root zone heating is known to benefit plant growth and
extend the growing season.
It is another very low temperature application that can be conducted
without sacrificing the primary use for the solar energy.
Click Here for more about our Solar Gardening Applications.