DIY Solar Panels for Air Heating: How it Works

solar energy radiation

Let`s take a look at how DIY solar panels actually work. On a sunny day, regardless of outside temperature, sun is rapidly heating the air inside pop cans. Warm air is then returned to the room through the upper air vent of solar collector and aluminum pipe. The room, solar panel, air inlet and air outlet form a closed loop air circulation system.

Solar air heater panels are usually mounted on the south side of the roof, but if that is not possible then the south-east or south-west side is acceptable as well. When determining the angle of mounting the solar collector, consider the angle of the sun’s rays fall in the winter season.

The air can not escape outside of the can walls which helps to avoid deposition of dust and fogging onto Plexiglas inner side. The following image shows a simplified sketch of all elements of the DIY solar panels for air heating

solar thermal panel air heating principle

solar thermal panel air heating principle

Ok, let`s summarize: Fan draws cool air from the room. The air goes through the filter and passes a one-way-pass-valve, which ultimately goes into the bottom hole through the aluminum insulated pipe. For the purpose of directing and distributing air through the solar panel, there are separate suction boxes made of aluminum sheet 1 mm (0.04 inches). These boxes are located on the lower and upper part of structure. The bottom of the collector’s box has a purpose to channel the air into the tunnels made out of pop cans. Here, the heated air coming from the cans, goes toward the output which is located in the upper corner of the room which we are heating.

This solar air heating system is not able to accumulate heat / solar energy produced. When it’s sunny, the solar collector produces heat, but it is necessary to immediately use that energy for home heating. If it is not sunny, you need to disable solar collector air supply, because otherwise the room will began to cool down.

After completion and installation of collector on the house, the outside temperature of -3 ° C, from the solar collector came out 3 m3/min (3 cubic meters per minute) of heated air. Heated air temperature went up to +72 ° C. Calculated power that gave the solar collector was approximately 1950 W (watts) which is almost 3 HP (3 horsepowers)!

By building cheap DIY solar panels using coke cans, you can achieve significant savings during the heating season. Depending on construction and material quality, one square meter of pop can solar air heater panel can heat between 10 and 15 m2 of your living space. In other words, 2x1m solar panels (2 square meters covered with pop cans) can heat up to 30m2 (square meters) of your home.

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