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How do I Choose the Best Solar Space Heater?

Anna B. Smith
Anna B. Smith

To choose the best solar space heater, consumers should purchase a model which has a high efficiency rating and allows the solar paneling to be mounted on the home's exterior. Units with a high efficiency rating can convert the majority of absorbed sunlight into usable electricity, thereby saving homeowners money on their winter electric bills. Exterior mounted panels are both aesthetically pleasing and better able to catch and collect sunlight than interior models. These panels can be connected with interior wall vents that pump warm air into the home and are in appearance from the inside identical to existing central heating vents.

A solar space heater utilizes natural sunlight to convert cold air into warmth and circulate it back into the home. This type of heating system is available in a wide variety of shapes, styles, and designs. Some homeowners with an intermediate level of engineering skill are able to build their own solar heaters using materials commonly found in local home improvement stores. Design schematics for such items are available for purchase through the Internet.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Consumers should begin by purchasing a solar space heater that guarantees an efficiency rate of 50% or higher. All solar powered items, such as photo voltaic panels which can be mounted on the roof, solar powered appliances, and solar thermostat controls, typically rate their ability to convert sunshine into energy. Some products require maximum sun exposure totaling six or more hours each day to operate at all. Often, these machines must also be plugged into the home's electrical or natural gas supply lines so that they may continue to function even when the sky is slightly overcast. These items often have an efficiency rate of 30% or less, are expensive initially for the consumer to purchase, and do not save a great deal of money in the long term as they continue to draw from the home's power lines.

The solar space heater should also be aesthetically pleasing as well as economical. Most designs usually include a heating element that converts cold air into warm air, and a panel which must be placed in direct sunlight and connected to the air exchanger. The panel may be separate from the air exchanger, or they may be designed together as one single unit. Single unit models are large and unsightly, and must be placed inside the home directly in front of a window which receives all day direct sun exposure. They stand between 4 and 7 feet (1.2 and 2.1 meters) in height and are approximately 3 feet (0.9 meters) in width.

Heaters which allow the solar panel to be mounted outside away from the air exchanger are the most attractive forms of solar heating. This type of model allows the powering mechanism to be placed out of sight and often requires only a small interior vent through which warm air is pumped. The exterior panel may be placed wherever maximum sunlight is received, and some manufacturer's offer to prime the paintable surfaces so that it may be colored to match the home's existing siding. Depending on design specifications, the interior vents may be attached to the exterior panel directly, or they may be wired to it from a distance. Warm air is then created internally and can be circulated throughout the room using the machine's fan capabilities, or by combining it with a ceiling fan.

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