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Applying the “Greenhouse Effect” for Heating or Plant Growth

A greenhouse is one of the best examples of solar heating through passive isolated gain, although the method can also be applied elsewhere.

Solar gain refers to the increase in temperature in a controlled space as a result of solar radiation. The amount of solar energy generated depends upon the strength of the sun and type of material used to absorb and trap the sun’s warmth. Greenhouses are designed to absorb as much heat as possible that can be stored to either grow plants or be transferred to heat your home.

The “greenhouse effect” as this is called, is created by building an attached greenhouse onto a home. Begin by choosing a sunny location on the south-facing side of a building. The components of a solar greenhouse should include a collector, an absorber, a storage mass, and a distribution system. The collector can be a greenhouse glass or plastic. The absorber can be as simple as dark colored walls and water-filled containers. A good storage mass can be water or concrete. The distribution system can be passive or active through the use of forced air or simply by opening doors and windows.

This isolated gain of solar energy can be very advantageous to a home. The energy is stored in one room attached to a house, and then redirected as desired to heat water or a radiant heating system.

There are measures you can take to control this passive gain for your advantage. Situate your house and windows to take advantage of winter sun exposure and minimize summer rays. Be sure your home has adequate insulation, as well as proper shade on the exterior. Apply glazings to your windows for greater energy efficiency.

The addition of a solar greenhouse is a less expensive method of providing at least supplemental solar energy to a home. Request free estimates from prescreened solar contractors in your area to help reduce your energy bills.



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