Build a Solar Collector for Passive Hot Water and Home Heating

With the interest in survivalism, leaning how to build a solar collector is a step in the right direction. The good thing, for anyone who is interested, is that the equipment necessary is not that difficult to obtain. Material put aside for recycling is a common choice of items for making these energy-generating devices. Generating electricity and heating water are two of the most popular uses of energy from this do-it-yourself solar project.

Basic Steps to Construct a Solar Collector

Photo courtesy of Arsel Ozgurdal

This device is simply a tool for harnessing the sun’s rays in order to channel them to provide energy for various purposes. A simple and popular way to build a solar collector requires empty beer or soda cans and a few other items. The number of cans will depend on the size of the collector. The items and steps required to build a solar collector using cans are quite simple, and cost very little, such as:

  • Collect empty cans to build a solar collector, but the number of cans depend on the size of the device you want to make. Starting small makes sense, so collecting around 100 cans may be a good place to start
  • Sheets of ply board are needed.
  • Drill or other tool to bore holes in the bottom of the cans is required.
  • Use black paint to coat the cans
  • Use a sheet of Plexiglas to cover the front of the box.

After collecting your supplies, you are ready to begin to build a solar collector:

  • Make a box in which to stack the cans. The size of the box will depend on the number of cans you plan on using. Make sure to seal the joints of the box to prevent heat escaping. Leave a hole at the top of the box to take an outlet hose of about 2 or 3 inches.
  • Wash and dry the cans, both inside and out.
  • Punch a one-inch hole in the bottom of the cans. For those cans that will be at the bottom of the box, put the holes in the side of the cans.
  • Paint the cans black to help keep the heat inside.
  • Stack the cans on top of each other inside the box; if you want to make sure the cans do not shift, use an adhesive between them.
  • Place the outlet hose in the hole.
  • Tape or use clips to cover the front of the box with the Plexiglas or other clear material.
  • Take your do-it-yourself collector and position it where it will get the most sun.
  • Vent fans can be attached to the end of the hose to help blow the warm air where you want it.

Build a Solar Collector Idea #2

It is possible to use variations of these heat grabbers to make do-it-yourself solar water heaters and solar ovens. You can easily build a solar collector and use the sun’s rays to heat your water. You can use the system described below to supply hot water to your bathroom. The methods here vary but the basic materials are:

  • Pine or plywood boards
  • A sheet of glass
  • Aluminum foil
  • Black rubber floor mat
  • Screws
  • Hoses to attach to the heat exchanger
  • Copper tubing as a heat exchanger, you can use an old one from a refrigerator
  • Caulking

With the supplies, you are ready to start:

  • Make a rectangular frame using the pine board or plywood, as a beginner a small frame is best.
  • Use aluminum foil to cover one side of the rubber mat.
  • Place the frame on the foil-covered part of the mat.
  • Use the screws to attach the mat to the frame.
  • Place the heat exchanger inside the frame.
  • Cover the frame with the sheet of glass; use the caulking to secure the glass to the frame.
  • Connect the hose to both ends of the heat extractor, and connect the cold water inlet to a water source and the other hose to the exchanger outlet.
  • Place the collector in an area where it is in direct sunlight.
  • Turn on the water slowly and test the water coming out the outlet hose. As the sun penetrates the collector, the water coming out will begin to get warmer
  • Test the flow and heat levels before connecting directly to a bathroom pipe or tank.

With the many variations available, experimentation will help you find what works best for your needs. Some people use material they can get free from recycling centers or from home. Others will buy some components from a hardware store if they want to go the extra mile. When it comes to how to build a solar collector, you can make it as simple or complex as you can afford or desire. The bottom line is to harness the energy of the sun for whatever purpose you wish, so your collector should rest in a spot that gets the most sunshine, otherwise, it will not work well.

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