Okay, our solar furnace is actually installed! Now if only it were cool enough to want to use it… Still, that will come in time and for now we’re excited to show it off. Here are some basic pictures of the final product; we’ll post pictures of the actual construction further down the road when we have caught up with ourselves (ha!).
It’s a lot flatter than I expected, about a handsbreadth deep. I think it looks pretty good on the side of our house and Michael B. did an excellent job with the flashing around the edges. So what you can’t see is that there are two holes in the back of the panel that continue through the wall of the house and into the living room. One hole has a fan attached (that unfortunately sticks further into the room than we had envisioned) for pulling air from our house through the panel. The fan is controlled by two thermostats.
One thermostat is mounted on the wall and lets us decide how hot we want our house to be (it cranks up to 90!). The other is located inside the panel and makes sure the panel is hot enough to heat up air as it passes through. We had it on for an afternoon right after it was installed and it gets amazingly hot. We could totally set up a sauna in our living room if we wanted.
So here is my very crude graphic rendition of air flow through the panel heating our house. We were a little surprised that the panel has no channels or grooves on the inside to direct air flow; it’s just one big black box. The advantage is that you can cut the openings wherever you need them so if your house happens to have a phone jack or an electrical outlet right where you were going to install the fan, you can move it over a few inches and just put the hole in a different place in the panel.
We’ll keep you posted on results as the weather cools down.