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How Do I Choose the Best Solar Furnace?

B. Leslie Baird
B. Leslie Baird

Choosing the right solar furnace for your needs will depend on the climate and average amount of sunshine of your location. Solar heat can provide warmth even in cold locations, but the more sunlight available, the better the solar furnace will perform. Types of solar furnace systems range from do-it-yourself installations to complete commercial units.

Solar heat can be obtained through passive or active systems. Solar thermal systems are normally included in the passive style. Active systems include photovoltaic panels that convert solar energy into electrical energy. Solar panels are an expensive option, but the overall energy savings can be significant, especially when the panels generate more than just heating energy.

Solar panels cost more, but gather and generate plenty of energy.
Solar panels cost more, but gather and generate plenty of energy.

Solar thermal systems generate heat by direct solar energy. These systems work well for furnaces and water heaters. A basic solar furnace system can consist of one or more collecting panels placed on the roof of a home. The collected heat is condensed and directed into the dwelling.

Even simple forms of furnaces usually have a control unit and a damper to prevent heat from escaping at night. A blower may be used to accelerate the heat transfer. Systems work by gathering, reflecting, and then focusing sunlight to create heat. Passive systems work well for heating smaller spaces.

Homes that are located in colder areas may need to use a solar panel system that works with a solar heat exchanger on the furnace. Heat exchangers use solar heated water in a radiator. Air blown over the radiator fins then provides heat for the home. An additional benefit of this type of system is that it also supplies year-round hot water.

Understanding how heat works can help with understanding a solar furnace. Passive solar energy makes use of heat movement. Heat moves by conduction, radiation, and convection. The heat in a warm area will move to a colder area until the areas are equal. One form of passive heating is simply orienting a home to make the best use of sunlight through windows in the winter.

No matter what type of solar furnace, or other solar energy equipment, you choose, take time to check out both the manufacturer and the installation contractor. Also read the warranty that is provided and determine exactly what it covers. Investigate the reputation and experience of the installer. Read all information that is supplied with the equipment and you should have a system that you can rely on for an abundant supply of heat.

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    • Solar panels cost more, but gather and generate plenty of energy.
      By: Vanessa
      Solar panels cost more, but gather and generate plenty of energy.