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Inexpensive solar heating and cooling

written by: Steve Graham•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/1/2010

Environmentalists and thrifty homeowners alike want inexpensive solar power options. Solar space heaters provide residential solar heating with minimal cost and maintenance. Likewise, solar attic fans draw out hot air and keep homes cooler in the summer.

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    Harnessing solar power doesn’t have to be expensive. Solar electric panels are trendy and cool-looking, but they are also prohibitively expensive for many homeowners. Solar space heaters generate inexpensive solar power by simply heating winter air and blowing it back into a house. Solar attic fans are another inexpensive solar power option. The fans help keep homes cool in the summer by pulling hot air out of the attic.

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    Solar space heaters

    The sun is already heating the earth, even in winter. The most direct way to use inexpensive solar power is residential solar heating. Several companies sell solar space heaters — small wall-mounted panels that heat the house during the day. The panels use a fan to draw cold winter air out of the house. The sun heats the air as it runs through heating tubes. Some models plug into the wall and some don't need electricity.

    Solar space heaters don't replace existing heating systems, which are still needed at night. But they are cheaper to buy and operate than roof-mounted solar electric panels. Roof panels either generate electricity for an electric heater or they heat water for radiant floor heating or home hot water. Instead, solar space heaters directly heat the air.

    Solar Green in Colorado makes the Solar Max panel. The company said the panel can heat a 2,000-square-foot house and exchange 650 cubic feet of air per hour. The panel is 4-foot by 7-foot and can be mounted on any south-facing wall (in the northern hemisphere anyway).

    Your Solar Home, a Canadian company, makes a similar series of solar space heaters.

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    Solar attic fans

    A solar-powered attic fan is another form of inexpensive solar power. Air conditioners are the biggest energy users in most homes. Air conditioners and other appliances push energy usage to its annual peak on hot summer nights.

    A solar-powered attic fan has a small solar panel that runs a fan. The fan helps pull hot air out of the attic. Solar electricity In turn, hot air will also rise out of the house. The fans can cut the need for air conditioning or make your house more comfortable without air conditioning.

    The fans are cheap and easy to install with little maintenance and no electrical hookup needed. They also help reduce ice, mold and moisture buildup in your attic during the winter.