Solar heating: is it working ?
After having analyzed the various options available on the market (Cansolair, SM-14), I finally chose the eSolair 2.0 solar collector of MC2 Energy company. The price was interesting and the energy production was promising according to the abundant data provided by the company. I thus crossed the step.
I chose a kit comprising the following components:
With the collector, I bought the following components:
2 triangular supports for the solar collector (angle of 83 degrees)
PC interface with Resol Service Center Light software
Isolated external pipes (2 inches of insulation)
While including the taxes and the delivery, the total costs amounted to approximately 2100$ ( Can )
The installation of the panel took place on September. Not being very handyman, I called my father in order to proceed to the installation. Being given the dimension and the weight of the panel, it is necessary to be at least 2 persons to realize such an installation. The panel, with a dimension of 92 in X 44 in X 4 ¼ in weighs 120 pounds and second part, isolated with rockwool, weighs 40 pounds.
I chose a 83 degrees slope for the collector even if 60 degrees would have been preferable in order to maximize the output of the panel. But as space was restricted (I did not want to encroach on my small garden), I chose this solution. On the site of the manufacturer we can find the output potential in kWh and the numbers of years necessary to get to the profitability according to 3 standard slopes: 90,60 and 45 degrees. (in the south of Quebec).
An angle of 83 degrees has however an advantage. Snow can accumulate with difficulty on the collector. See the attached pictures taken after an important fall of snow which has occurred in December. One can note that a good quantity of snow accumulated on the collector of the solar water heating system (automated translation from french) but not on the one of the solar heating system. The following day, the solar heating system generated very close to 6 kwh whereas the water-heater did not generate any kwh, the panel being still entirely covered with snow
While proceeding to the installation by myself I preserve the hope to be able to make the installation profitable. According to the graphs, that could occur around the 15th year (if I exclude the cost of the PC interface which adds 135$) since my house is heated by electric plinths. If I heated by oil (all depends on the effectiveness of the furnace), that could take as little as 10 years to make it profitable… If you do not believe to be able to carry out the installation by yourself, do not neglect its cost in your calculations. That can make a great difference even if one does not carry out such an installation for the simple economic reason. Envisage 3-4 hours for a basic installation with qualified personnel
The installation of the pipes and the fan took place on October (what I succeeded in doing myself!!!). In order to minimize the impact of work, the decision of passing the pipes by the window was made. It is less elegant but it was much simpler. The input pipe (cold air) and the output pipe (hot air) pass between two simple pieces of plywood fixed at the window. Sealing was applied around in order to minimize the air infiltrations in the house.
The fan was installed directly on the threshold of the window. A nozzle of 90 degrees was added in order to push the hot air towards the ground. The air filter was deposited on the ground at a distance of approximately 15 feet of the fan in order to aspire the freshest possible air to get the best possible results (the output being function of the level of sunning, of the temperature of the air in the building to be heated and of the outside temperature). See graphics below:
|Software ServiceCenter RESOLProbe 1: Output temperature
Probe 2: Temperature of the room
Probe 3: Outside temperature
Probe 4: Input temperature
In order to maximize the output it is advantageous to heat a larger surface at a lower temperature than a smaller surface at higher temperature. In my case, as I maintain my basement at 55 °F (13 °C) when I do not occupy it, I maximise the output of my panel because the air admission temperature does not exceed 61 °F (16 °C) approximately.
The controller was adjusted in order to start the blower when the temperature in the panel reaches 3 degrees more than the temperature of my basement and stops when it is at 2 degrees over.
4 probes make it possible to control and obtain heating data of operation. They are located at the following places:
In the room
In the input pipe
In the output pipe
Outside in order to know the temperature
Finally the installation of the PC interface was carried out on at the end of October. It makes it possible to cumulate the panel data to an regular interval by connecting it to a computer by the serial port. In my case, a measurement is taken at every 5 minutes. That enables me to know, for example, the maximum air output temperature according to the temperature of admission and of the outside temperature. It also makes it possible to get the number of kwh generated during the day.
Results: Then, is it effective?
I say yes without hesitating. It is impressive to feel the hot air leaving the fan at more than 113 °F (45 Celcius degrees) by a beautiful sunny day of November whereas it makes 23 °F (-5 Celcius) outside. Currently, in November, at the time of very sunny days, the system makes it possible to generate between 6 and 8 kwh.
Here some examples
|December 8, 2008: Click here
(Day perfectly shone upon by an outside temperature varying of 7 °F to 14 °F)Outstanding fact: 1,499 kWh produced between 12:00 and 13:00
Total produced for the day: 5,998 kWh
|January 14, 2009: Click here
(Day perfectly shone upon by an outside temperature of approximately -4 °F)Outstanding fact: 1,662 kWh produced between 12:22 and 13:22
Total produced for the day: 6,534 kWh
(Note: The temperature indicated in the document is over-estimated (too much hot) since the probe is not completely in the shade)
Here are the results which I will maintain up to date throughout the heating season:
Season 2008-2009: Click here
Until now I am very satisfied. I would say that it is about a better investment than my solar water heating system. The large disadvantages of the solar water heating system (in addition to its cost of installation) is the maintenance costs. To all 3 or 5 years, the glycol must be drained and replaced by new glycol. I don’t know the exact cost but when one knows that the specialized labour costs 50$/hour without counting the minimum displacement expenses minimum, that comes to notch in the profits quickly… However, in the case of the solar heating, it has no fixed maintenance costs. Obviously, the fan will not be eternal but the pump either in the case of the solar water heating system. However, as I do not make all these steps for the money saving but to inform and sensitize people about renewable energies, then the goal is reached with these 2 types of devices.
Another interesting point, the results are more tangible and one can easily quantify the incurred economies. For somebody as me it is much more amusing!!! We only have to feel heat in the room when the sun shines to become aware of all the power of this under-exploited clean energy which is solar energy
Solar Heating (automated translation from french)