Off-the-grid living is a dream of mine. I have this vision of utilizing many of the green technologies available today to make this dream a reality.  Solar panels, geothermal heating and wind energy are just a few technologies I’d like to pursue so that our home can be less reliant on the grid’s electricity when providing warmth and shelter.  (And it never hurts to save a few dollars in the process!)

Today, my vision has become one step closer to reality with the addition of a home-constructed solar heat collector.

What is a Solar Heat Collector (SHC)?

An SHC is simply a way to capture the sun’s heat so that it can be used to offset other heating requirements.  In this case, I’m planning to use my SHC to heat my home in the fall and spring months when enough heat can be collected to more than provide for our heating needs.

My SHC is essentially created from pop/beer cans that are stacked one on top of the other in columns. I drilled a hole through each can so that air can flow through.  (A few cans have a smaller passageway in order to slow the airflow for a longer heating exposure.)  I built a wooden box around the columns for protection.

You can search for loads of of do-it-yourself videos on how to construct your own SHC.

How did I integrate my solar heat collector with our home?

The biggest challenge I had after constructing my solar heat collector was integration with the rest of the house.  I needed a way for the heat to get into the house.  Two passageways are required for the SHC to work properly; one passageway takes in the air for heating by the sun and a second passageway transfers the heated air into the house.  I didn’t want to drill two new holes in my house for this project so I decided to look for existing passages.  This left me with only two options.  

The first option was to integrate the SHC with my heat pump.  The second was to integrate the SHC with my air exchange unit.  I chose the latter because the intake for the air exchange unit is more accessible and can be manually controlled from inside the house.

Here’s a brief home video of the project.  

Once I had securely installed the unit and integrated it with our home, something amazing started to happen.  It immediately worked!  Let the autumn come!

Stay tuned for a follow-up post where I’ll share the details on the ongoing operation of our SHC and details on how much money we saved.


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