It seems self-evident that, as a global society, we must transition eventually from the nonrenewable fossil fuels we currently rely on to renewable sources of energy such as biomass, wind, and particularly solar energy. The latter, though it involves some difficulties, which we will discuss shortly, is especially attractive, I think, because its source is the energy provided by the sun, which is so vast that, according to some, “if it could be effectively harnessed, two days’ worth of solar energy could provide more power than all known fossil fuel reserves.” (Duke Power)
Because I will be getting a house of my own in just a few years, I decided that an interesting topic for study might be solar heating. There are two different kinds of solar heating, so I will briefly discuss them both:
Active Solar Heating
There are two different kinds of active solar heating systems: air and liquid. In both kinds of Active Solar Heating, flat plate solar energy collectors are installed on the roof or on the ground. Most often, the side that faces the sun has a glass or plastic cover and the inside space is a black absorbing material. Air systems use air to capture, transfer, and store heat produced by the collectors, while the liquid systems use water or an antifreeze solution. From there, fans or pumps deliver the heat to the house. Ultimately, I feel I would opt for the liquid system, because they cost less to operate and take up less space.
Liquid systems store solar heat in tanks of water. There are many decisions I will have to make in regards to the tank like, for instance, whether to put the tank indoors or outdoors and, additionally, what material to construct the tank out of. The tanks can be made of steel, fiberglass, or concrete, but ultimately I might lean towards a wooden tank with a plastic liner, because wooden tanks cost less, but are still just as effective. This will also make the first decision easier, since, by the rules of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), wooden solar heat tanks can only be constructed indoors.