Solar home tour: Spreading sunshine
A Huntington home was part of the Utah Solar tour recently held across the state of Utah. The home of the Ropers along with the accompanying garage are part of a solar passive system. Roper has an 8x40 greenhouse/solarium attached to his garage in the back yard.
The solar tour is held to provide a learning experience about solar energy. It is held to raise awareness of the availability and practicality of solar energy.
Don became interested in solar energy a long time ago. He had a solar unit in American Fork which he left upon moving to Huntington. In American Fork their heating system was all electric so the solar heating saved them approximately 50 percent in electricity costs.
Al Hammond has built several solariums/greenhouses over the years and he has helped Don with his. The system is passive solar heat which is designed to use the sun as a heat source. Retrofit panels are installed through which the sun shines creating heat within the solarium area. If the door is opened into the garage and a fan turned on along with the open window between the garage and the solarium area, the heat gathered in the solarium is circulated throughout the garage. Solariums are always placed on the south side of a building to take advantage of the sunlight. Greenhouses/solariums make nice additions to homes while serving a purpose in creating heat.
During the winter the sun hits the glazing (window panels) directly and in the summer the sunlight hits the panels at an angle due to the tilt of the earth as the seasons change. The rays of the sun go directly through the glazing and create heat, similar to a car sitting in the sun with its windows rolled up, the heat created inside a car is quite intense reaching temperatures of 120 degrees or more.
The projects are designed to be more efficient in the winter when you need it and less efficient in the summer when it's not needed. In the summer the direct rays aren't there like in the summer, it still produces heat, but not as efficiently as during the winter.
The brick wall of the garage collects heat during the day and also heats a large tube filled with water. The floor is concrete which collects heat and the floor is insulated which allows all the heat collected from these sources to remain in the room.
During the winter the garage door will be opened and that warm air circulated throughout the garage with a fan.
Don said sometimes his unit in American Fork reached 110 degrees. Hammond said his solar heating in his home in the canyon provides all the heat for the home. "Most people just don't know about it, they are so used to electricity and natural gas. A solarium or green house is also tax deductible," said Hammond.
The size of the glazing determines how much reduction there is on a heating bill. The glazing is made from polycarbonate which is a synthetic thermoplastic resin, a linear polymer of carbonic acid used for molded products, films and nonbreakable windows. They are double paned to create an air space to insulate in between the layers of glazing.
Hammond says he used snow melt for the water which is used to heat and circulate within the tubing in the solarium. Any plants grown in a greenhouse do not affect the heat.
Hammond said he has been building solariums and greenhouses for 20 years.
Don likes the feel of solar heat. "It just feels so much better, it's a comfortable heat," said Don. Passive solar systems are very quiet unlike some more complicated solar systems which include noisy fans and pumps.
Hammond said when people are considering building a new home they need to think about solar from the ground up. Solar features can be built right into a new home. This is what Don has done with his new house in Huntington. The entire south wall of the home is a solid wall of windows to collect the heat from the sun. The solar room is 10 feet wide and runs the width of the home and then the brick wall of the home is the side wall of the solarium. Don also has natural gas as a back up system and he estimates his savings on heating bills will average 30 percent. He has a fan system within the house which circulates the heat through the top floor and the basement.
Another feature of the home is a longer overhang which deflects the sun in the summer, but in the winter allows direct access of the suns rays into the solar room.
Hammond said solar heating is not a new idea, the ancient cliff dwellers built their homes to collect the sunshine and store it in the bricks and then the heat from the bricks would keep the small homes warm throughout the rest of the day and night.
"Solar heating is underutilized," said Don, "Only in recent times has there been a resurgence in the interest in solar heating."
Hammond said President Jimmy Carter was very interested in solar homes and made grants available for work on solar homes.
Hammond said his first solar project was possible with grant money from Pres. Carter and then Utah Gov. Scott Matheson to work with the Native Americans in Utah and introduce them to passive solar.
Another savings comes with the heating of the water in the water storage unit and then this water heated by the sun is put into the hot water heater already hot which saves the energy from heating cold water.
A reverse system can also be used with underground cooling tubes which cool the water and then cool water is circulated throughout the home to cool it, this is a totally silent system.
Don is a retired veterinarian who was born in Huntington. He returned last year to build his solar home in Huntington. He and his wife Marian are adjusting to life in the small community. It's very peaceful after the hustle and bustle of American Fork which has experienced rapid growth these last few years. Marian said she misses being close to the children and grandchildren but it's very pretty down here.