What About Free Heat?

We’ve covered heating systems where you supply SOMETHING to make it work, electricity or fuel. What about systems that don’t need that? Can we get everything for nothing and can it be done at industrial scale?

The Power of the Sun

The sun is a massive, nuclear fireball, bombarding the Earth with numerous forms of radiation day in and day out. Nearly all the warmth on the planet comes from the sun. Even in the middle of winter, there is a TON of heat being blasted down on us. Just look at Pluto, which gets essentially no sunlight. It would make the ice planet Hoth look like Miami.

This difference means that there is an abundance of energy, it’s just not enough to make the whole area toasty and warm. Air currents and shorter days reduce the total heat delivered and cause an overall lower temperature, but there is still a ton of heat. Think about it. If we have a large window into a well insulated room, the sun will heat that room up, regardless of the season. That’s without using any engineering to make it an efficient process. It’s just the natural conversion of radiation into heat.

Thermal Engineering

The most important part of a solar hot water system is to squeeze as much energy out of the sun as possible. This comes down to the design of the pipes in the rooftop component, a Thermosiphon, what they’re made of and the coatings put on them. Certain materials will radiate heat. Commonly white-paint will reflect radiation and black will absorb it. This is because white is made of the full spectrum of light, while black is the literal absence of light.

With the correct coatings and design, an array of tubes can extract heat, even in freezing air. The important thing isn’t the air temperature, it’s the sunlight hitting the collector. As long as that light is converted into heat as efficiently as possible, the system will produce usable heat for the facility.

Will It Pay Off?

Moving to a solar heating system though is a bit drastic, isn’t it? It requires studying the roof of your facility and more engineering work than just having a boiler installed. There are a few pay offs though:

  1. Free Heat
    You will receive some measure of free heating. Depending on the system you install, this might even be enough for all your heating needs in the facility.
  2. Good PR
    Millenials are environmentally conscious and support green initiatives. Having a massive solar heat collector can attract younger customers and talent.
  3. Tax Credits and Other Incentives
    State and Federal governments will pay for part of the system. There are tax credits available for solar technology, though these vary greatly. You could essentially upgrade your facility’s heating 25% off or more.
  4. Lower Maintenance Costs
    A solar heating system has few parts. The most elaborate configurations involve multiple pumps, a heat exchanger, and some sensors, all of which are straight forward to replace and have long lives. Even if a solar heater doesn’t meet your full heating needs, it will reduce the work on your existing furnace and extend its lifetime.

There can be some major benefits to these systems. Scaling up to industrial levels is often just a matter of adding more units, more pumps, and bigger storage tanks.

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