DIY Solar Heating
There is an enormous amount of information on the web about doing it yourself. So we are not going to repeat that.
What we can do is point you in the direction of some of the information that we have found - much of it is through the words of householders who have converted their heating systems and are now sharing their experiences.
One such is the blog of Rowan Langley. His June 2006 electricity bill was £3.22 including VAT! He is monitoring power usage on line and has a wealth of information on how to set a solar power system up. Read his response to the question, 'How do I start?'
Other home owners that are offering their knowledge and pictures of their projects over the web are Andy Hunt, documenting the 'Greening' of his house and Nigel, in Suffolk, shows us the wealth of work that he is up to.
Energy EfficiencyPaul and Deb have set up another web site documenting the work they have been doing on their house. The place to start is energy efficiency and they have some good advice. Energy efficiency is the most important factor in beginning to develop your home for solar heating. There is no point in putting expensive solar panels on your roof when your fridge is losing all the energy you would otherwise be gaining. Get your walls and loft fully insulated, make sure you are using energy saving light bulbs and check all windows and doors for draughts. This is the stage to also consider whether passive solar house design is maximised. BuilditSolar offer a free downloadable book on diy passive solar design.
DIY Thermal Solar Water HeatingThe UK Dti have an activity sheet that you can link to from our Activities page. Instructions for building a thermal solar water heater start on page 23, Sections 9.1 and 9.2 of their pdf document. The same Dti document has an exercise for school children to test out a homemade solar water heater - Section 5.1.
Craig, at Biggin Hill Community web site has set out in detail what is needed to create thermal solar water heating. This is probably the easiest form of solar heating to go down the DIY route on. At least one firm, Rayotec, produces a pack for solar water heating. Thermal solar water heating is probably the best step to take after having made your home energy efficient. It is the cheapest and most tried and tested option - it will immediately start to pay back by warming your water.
Check out the Funding page - if you qualify for a £400 grant - you could be receiving more than 50% of the cost of your solar panel.
DIY Solar Photovoltaic Cells
Well, it may not be possible to diy photovoltaic cells completely but the components can be purchased and installed. Richard Stubbs, who started off working with a renewable energy company in Wales, now lives in France and has worked globally for major development agencies training technicians. He has now written the book Teach Yourself Solar Power which takes you through the process of designing, specifying and installing a system.
Paul and Deb describe on their site, the procedure to installation in April 2006. They now keep a daily log showing energy output. They also give information on connecting to the grid. You will need to check that your energy supplier can offer to purchase your energy production to add to the grid.
Panels can cost anything from £8,000 to £18,000 depending upon your requirements - giving annual savings of between £75 and £125. High street stores are now selling solar photovoltaic cell panels – suce as B&Q and Currys.
Once you have achieved your optimum home energy efficiency – have installed your solar power systems – this is the time to consider wind power to back up your solar power production, if you are not already involved with a community turbine in your area.