Home Power #72 • August / September 1999
backdraft damper will be needed to prevent nighttimecooling. Notice the similarities between these guidelinesand those for thermosyphon liquid-based collectorsystems. AAASolar Supply’s
Solar Design Catalog
hasexcellent installation guidelines for rooftop-mountedsolar air collectors.
The fan is controlled by a simple temperature controlcircuit. I designed and built the circuit over a weekend,and it is described in detail in the sidebar. For the circuitto operate properly, one thermistor needs to beexposed to the cold workshop temperature (close to thecold air inlet), and the second thermistor needs to beplaced inside the hot air outlet.Warm air rising from the collector through the duct willreach the second thermistor, increasing its temperature.Once its temperature is approximately 2°C (3.6°F)warmer than that of the cold air thermistor, the fan isactivated automatically and the system starts pushingwarm air into the room.To collect the temperature information presented in thisarticle, I installed a digital thermometer capable ofmeasuring two temperatures simultaneously. I used thisthermometer to measure the workshop temperatureand the temperature of the warm air coming from thecollector after it had travelled through the 3 m (10 ft)return duct. The thermometer and temperature circuitcan be seen in the photo to the left.
The main components of the system and their cost arelisted in the table. Notice that the total system cost issimilar to that of about two typical photovoltaic modules.Sadly, crating and shipping charges are a largepercentage of the overall system cost.
To best illustrate the operation and effectiveness of thesolar hot air collector, I measured typical air inlet, airoutlet, and outside air temperatures for several days inintervals of 30 minutes. This allowed me to compute thepower and energy produced by my system, as well asits efficiency. It also allowed me to give quantifiedanswers to questions such as “Does the basement feelwarmer now?” and “Does the system pay for itself?” It isinteresting to see that solar energy does definitelyimpact the bottom line.To perform these computations, it is necessary tointroduce several physical constants, system-specificconstants, and the underlying simple heat energyequation.
Physical Constants & Conversions
Specific heat of air (constant pressure, and 27 to 47°C):
c=1.007 kJ / kg °K
Insulated duct adapter panel,showing the fanin front of the cold air inlet (lower right),the hot air outlet (upper left),the temperature controlcircuit,and the dual thermometer.
$415$185$80$40$25$15Total$7604 x 8 ft solar hot air collectorShipping and crating chargesMounting structureDucts, adaptors, and insulated panelTemperature control circuit and fanDual-monitoring thermometer