"SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

TypeDrTypeDr Registered Users Posts: 13
http://www.realgoods.com/product/home-outdoor/air-quality-climate-control/heating/solar+sheat+solar+air+heaters.do

Hello Again,

I'm wondering if this product is anywhere near as good as it presents? It seems a little like the much-condensed child of a sun-room.

Also, do you know it contains specialized components that might really make the price of these heaters ($1,919.00 - $3,759.00) worthwhile? Versus would this be relatively simple to build with windows from Habitat Re-Store, roofing felt or matte black paint, etc?

My criteria: Will this be a time-consuming project for a novice builder (who is a precise graphic artist, photo retoucher, and painter who stretches her own canvas on self-built stretchers and also creates the frames).

I'm not at all adverse to asking a fine carpenter or local solar maven to build this for me, and install it, but if the cost works out about the same as buying ready-made, and then installing, why would one DIY?

Thanks. I hope these questions make some kind of sense, as they were difficult to express!

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,143 admin
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Probably hugely over priced--But it is hard to tell from the website.

    Take a look through this thread that has lots of links to a whole bunch of solar RE/conservation projects.

    The first thing we tell new posters is to put away your wallet.

    Then review you home for conservation measures (insulation, double pane windows, more insulation and weather stripping, energy star appliances, look at your home heating/AC system for new energy efficient units, using laptop computer instead of an old desktop system, turning stuff off when not in use, etc....

    Basically, it is usually much cheaper to conserve than to generate electricity from Solar RE. It is not unusual for a family to save upwards of 50% on their energy bill if they have never addressed conservation before.

    Older homes can usually save more money on conservation than newer homes--But changing power use habits even in new, efficient home, can still save some money.

    Once you have identified your usage and possible savings through conservation--and implemented those--then look to solar RE for power and heating. And, for the most part, "going off the grid" is very expensive when compared to the price of power from a utility (off grid solar can be 4-10x the cost of utility supplied energy).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • TypeDrTypeDr Registered Users Posts: 13
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Hi Bill,

    Fair enough, re the new member policy.

    Just so you know, my home was built in 04, has energy-star appliances, and is superbly well-insulated with vinyl low-e windows, and an automatic propane-run back-up generator. Generally the utility bills come in around 65/mo, 1/3 of which is not usage, but state and fed fees.

    Heating is the area I would most like to retrofit by next winter. And perhaps install some mini-ductless ac for the month or two that our NM mountains actually get hot days. I'll be checking out the link you sent later tonight, thanks. By some wonderful fluke, my propane tank was filled at half-price, but it's still too high for my desire. I have excellent catalytic triple-burn wood stoves, and live with countless trees outside the fire-safe house perimeter.

    We've been experimenting with elec. induction cooking, and some new and very-efficient electric zone heaters by e-heat (for my Mom, who we hope will turn 92 in March, and who is chilly below 72°F).

    I'm very glad to have found the AZ Wind-Sun Forum, as the participants seem active, knowledgeable, and generous. That's really all I could ask for from a BB.... help to NOT re-create the wheel.

    Here in Northern New Mexico, we have the local ASES chapter, Sustainable LV, and are about about to have our annual Showcase of Sustainable Homes, which is an amazing community-builder, not to mention educational to the max. Right before we begin the tour, we have a free presentation on home insulating.

    Best, TypeDr
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,143 admin
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Sounds like you are pretty close to 100% on the conservation side...

    The mini-splits are pretty nice (and heat pump versions too).

    Sanyo mini split AC (inverter/variable speed)

    If you go to the end of that thread, there are some posts about possible cold weather issues (and another blog where it is discussed in detail).

    If you like DIY--Solar thermal is actually a great project to take on (building panels, plumbing, etc.--whatever your strengths/interests may be--Check that thread I gave you).

    Sorry to push the conservation--We don't know your home or experience until we ask. Pretty much we want to see people not waste their money on solar RE or anything else (we are a cheap bunch here :roll:;)).

    -Bill "we make the mistakes so you don't have to" B.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • TypeDrTypeDr Registered Users Posts: 13
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Hi Bill,

    Actually I feel that I know 'just enough to get in trouble", and judging from the random items I get all excited about, that's a good description. Lots of things make sense to an artist who dabbled in the sciences before going back to art. I mean, many 'new' inventions seem plausible but turn out to be 'anything but'!.

    I believe I first heard abt ductless mini-split ac's on this very site. That's how you won my heart (and my membership) -- by finding and testing the GOOD, viable new stuff.

    So, THANKS!
    I'll be dropping by now and then, with my curiosity front and center.

    Best, Zi
  • russruss Solar Expert Posts: 593 ✭✭
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Solar thermal warm air collectors are among the more doable DIY projects. They can also be relatively cheap and very cost effective.

    There are zero secret ingredients in those collectors - anyone trying to say there are special components is spreading cow stuff - fertilizing the atmosphere.

    There are numerous well explained plans with desired air velocities and all available on the net.

    Solar thermal water and air collectors are priced as if they contain some magic - one sales organization got irritated at me for pointing this out. He claimed it was not a 'mature' market.

    Notice the panel you gave the URL for says 'patent pending' mounting strip - WOW! I guess it is intended to make the product sound more important.

    Russ
  • TypeDrTypeDr Registered Users Posts: 13
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Again, Russ, I thank you for your inimicable and clear reply.

    I've been collecting diagrams and books for ages, more recently online, so the info that there are "zero secret ingredients" is all I needed to hear, to go forth and build passive solar heat collectors. And not worry that the prefabs are not somehow, mysteriously better.

    Best, TypeDr
  • SolarLurkerSolarLurker Solar Expert Posts: 122 ✭✭
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    The Solarsheet is a neat product, however I think the price is a little to high. Additionally, one problem is you cannot store the heat easily.

    I think Solar thermal will have a much better pay back. You can use the system to heat domestic water year round, excess production can be stored to some degree, and it can tie into you existing furnace.

    Take a look at this DIY set up in Montana

    http://www.solarbair.com/articles/horsecreekarticle.html
  • vcallawayvcallaway Solar Expert Posts: 157 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Here is a good do it yourself project.
  • russruss Solar Expert Posts: 593 ✭✭
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    Part of how good solar thermal will/won't work depends on the thermal mass of the house. With adequate mass to hold the heat solar air can easily extend the benefit well past sun down.

    Min, all concrete and block with masonry coatings inside and out and external insulation would be great for it.

    Just have to do something about it.:D

    Russ
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: "SolarSheat Solar Air Heaters" vs DIY

    A soalr diyer's best friend is the guy at the glass shop.

    Unknown to most is that when they replace a broken insulated patio door, they replace the entire glazing unit including both panes of glass, leaving lost of large pieces of glass going into the trash as there is little use for it. (because they can never get a good vacuum seal between the panels.

    Used patio door glass comes in very specific sizes and cannot be cut. It is tempered safty glass. Routine sizes are 34"X76" and 28"x 76". Designing sun spaces, greenhouses solar bread box heaters, flat panel heaters using those stock sizes can make these projects quite cheap. I have never paid more than ~ $10 for a 34X76 tempered glass panel and I have bought hundreds over the years.

    Tony
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