Guess what?!? We were chosen to have a solar air heater installed on our house as a demonstration project sponsored by the Southern Indiana Renewable Energy Network (SIREN)! Solar air heaters (also known as solar furnaces) are essentially big black boxes that heat up in the sun. They are filled with air channels so that air flows through the panel, heats up from the sunlight, and then the hot air goes into the house (generally with the help of a small solar fan). Solar air heating is a form of solar energy that’s actually more efficient than solar electricity (photovoltaic panels) but doesn’t get as much publicity. SIREN is excited to promote the technology and also hoping to launch a pilot project installing these systems on low-income houses.
Our solar furnace will come from the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), a company in Minnesota that makes them and also does a lot of work making renewable energy more accessible through training, education, installations, and a unique assistance program. They partner with agencies that serve the low-income community to install these systems for minimal cost as a way to make low-income families more self-reliant. Pretty cool stuff! SIREN hopes to bring a similar program down to our neck of the woods and is looking for an agency to partner with, hopefully the South Central Community Action Program (SCCAP), which is a local group working on weatherization and energy assistance for low-income families (among many other great assistance programs). Will and I are going through the application process so we can work together to try out the system, show it off to anyone interested, and further weatherize our home.
Want to see the system? We’ll be posting lots of pictures on our blog when the installation happens and we’ll also be opening our home up for a few tours. One will be as part of the Simply Living Fair coming up September 25-26. We’re giving a talk on home energy reduction as part of the Saturday workshops and then our house will be featured as part of the Solar Energy Tour on Sunday. It should be lots of fun! (Disclaimer: I am chairing the organizing committee for the fair so OF COURSE I think it will be lots of fun.)
Hopefully we’ll get accepted into the SCCAP program and they will help us do some insulating and caulking later this fall to further increase the energy efficiency of our home. I’m also still contemplating putting a greenhouse on our front porch to help improve heat gain through our south-facing bay windows but I’m not ready to make any promises. Regardless, we are looking forward to lowering our carbon footprint this winter while enjoying free hot air from the sun!