If you have looked into solar energy as a method for heating your home, panels are usually the first things that come up. There are, however, other unique methods.
The Solar Heating Aspect You Have Never Heard of Before
The power of the sun is immense. The energy in one day of sunlight is more than the world needs. The problem, of course, is how does one harness this power. Solar panels represent the obvious solution, but they have their downside. First, they can be expensive depending upon your energy needs. Second, they do not exactly blend in with the rest of your home.
Passive solar heating represents a panel free method of harnessing the inherent energy found in the sun for heating purposes. If you come out from a store and open the door of your car in the summer, you understand the concept of passive solar heating. A wide variety of material absorbs sunlight and radiates the energy back into the air in the form of heat. Passive solar heating for a home works the same way as the process which overheats your car in the parking lot.
Many people, however, cannot take maximum advantage of passive solar strategies. The primary problem is a home needs to be built with a particular orientation to the sun. This orientation allows the home to maximize the heat penetration throughout the year. A relatively small number of people actually build their own homes, so you can see we have an inherent problem. There is, however, one little trick that every home can use to take advantage of solar heating.
Certain materials have high thermal masses. This essentially means they absorb a high percentage of the energy in sunlight, but release it slowly. For practical purposes, this means they radiate heat well after the sun has gone down. You, my friend, can take advantage of this.
Dark gravel has a high thermal mass. It sucks up sunlight like a sponge and will radiate heat for hours after the sun goes down. Although you probably are not going to tear down your home to take advantage of passive solar strategies, you can get some of the benefits by using gravel in a strategic manner.
The idea is to place gravel on the ground below any windows on the ground floor of your home. During the summer, you landscape with plants that shade the gravel since you really don’t want extra heat at that time. When winter hits, however, the gravel should be exposed. It will suck up the energy of the sun all day and then radiate it vertically across the windows for a few hours after dark. This creates an island of heat and great reduces the release of heat from the interior of the home through the windows.
Obviously, this tricky gravel approach is not an end all solution for your heating problems. You should, however, be able to notice a difference in your heating bills of maybe five percent depending on your house design. Given the small amount of effort involved, that will equate to a nice savings over the years.
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