Every year about this time I begin looking at solar options for our home. With visions of tax returns and sunny days looming in my head, its only natural. In the past I've focused on solar power, which we haven't been able to afford -- Even the small arrays haven't been cheap enough.
This year, I'm looking into the possibilities of a passive solar collector/warm air heater, which we could build for a few hundred dollars, and/or a solar cooker. While a solar cooker is a very cool idea, it's the solar heater that I am most enamoured of. The idea is to build a shallow, big box made with corrugated fiberglass (like on greenhouses) and black paint inside. Nail it to your south wall or roof, and let it collect the sun's rays. A small vent into your home, equipped with a blower fan, is all you need to bring the sun's heat into the house. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
Well, here's the thing. We live on the east side of a mountain. To the the south and north of us, we are bordered by a nature preserve: lots and lots of trees. In December the sun hits our property directly for about one hour. Today, we are getting a couple hours of sun -- this sun is all filtered through the naked trees. Not too good for solar collection. But this morning I looked up at the roof, and saw that although the ground around our one-story house is getting minor rays, the roof is high enough to be getting full sun.
So I think the solar collector may be a go! At the very least, it could definitely heat our house in October, March and April, when we usually burn the wood stove several hours a day to take the chill of at night and in the morning.