Solar heat for the shop

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Blog entry by Fireguy posted 01-06-2010 07:55 PM 2146 reads 4 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

There has been a long running thread on heating your shop and several others on the same topic that I have been following for some time. I live in Wisconsin and have an unheated shop at the moment and very little gets done in the winter due to this. I am planning on insulation, new windows and doors and heat for next winter so I can work year around.

But the heat source is another question, I have been a fire fighter for 20 years and do not want to burn down my shop (would never hear the end of that) so I am leaning toward electric heat. But today there was an entry in the safely heating your shop forum that was a recycled pop can solar heater for $2750.00, a bit out of my price range so I did a goggle search and came up with this .

The question is has anyone tried this to supplement there heat source? And what would be an alternative to pop/beer cans is I drink very little of either and would take years to collect enough.

I guess I am putting it out there to get some ideas, so I can build a small scale version for testing. I have access to countless size fans and a device to measure and record temperatures for the testing as well as more cold weather than i care for.

-- Alex

16 comments so far

View tburritt's profile


21 posts in 3078 days

#1 posted 01-06-2010 08:14 PM

I have also posted the same question on other sites but I also was inquiring on adding hot water to the system as well for showers etc in the shop. I gues my question was to difficult for others to understand open vs closed loop systems for running a heat exchanger so A/C could be utalized in the same blower unit for the heat/ac side and an additional loop for heating water. I did not recieve any comments or suggestions so I am interested to see if anyone has other ideas. My father used the beer/soda can solar collectors in his shop and out buildings back in the 80’s with a little circulating fan to move the air around and it worked pretty good. It was all homemade and I remember cleaning out the cans to make them shine after cutting them open to gain more surface area. I will see if I can get ahold of the pics or drop him a line for more details.

-- Just a small fish in a big pond trying to make a difference one job at a time.

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3454 days

#2 posted 01-06-2010 09:04 PM

I found this website… it is similar

-- San Diego, CA

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3561 days

#3 posted 01-06-2010 09:18 PM

There is also the Trombe Wall, this site has a free for download passive solar energy book

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View woodnewbee's profile


76 posts in 3102 days

#4 posted 01-06-2010 09:52 PM

I have a building I moved in and am working to make it a shop. My plan is to put pex tubing in the concrete floor for heat. I have talked with several who have it in shop and they say it is very economical. Watched on TV show how it can be done with existing floors as well.
Any thoughts would be appreciated and I am trying to figure a way to add something like this solar panel as well. WaynO

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5856 posts in 3190 days

#5 posted 01-06-2010 10:00 PM

Greetings fireguy:

I’m not going to be much help in the solar heat / ? heat dept. But I can tell you this: I have a 40×50 woodshop, 6”insulation in the walls, 15” blown in the ceiling, and I have a ac/ht. heat pump. I have 10 heat registers in the main shop part, and 4 in the “boat stall”. It does a great job of heat and air. I just came in from the shop, and it’s about 70 degrees in there now. I don’t worry about sparks from heaters, kerosene, logburners, etc. And this unit is safe. The system sits in a seperate room, along w/ my d.c., plus keeps the noise factor down. Just thought I’d pass that along for what it’s worth, Oh—and where I live—we have no natural gas lines here in the Ozarks…... everythings all electric… it’s a love/ hate relation thing…....

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4095 days

#6 posted 01-06-2010 11:29 PM

I find these interesting because I had never heard of doing this until recently.

But interestingly, a few years ago I had this idea of building an insulated box and either installing metal fins or pipes, possibly black pipe, galvanized, or copper and painting them black.

Use a low velocity fan and get a thermostat switch to operate it so that when it was warmed up enough the fan would kick on and gently pull air into the shop.

I got as far as salvaging double pane glass out of some sliding glass doors and the project is on the “projects to do someday” list.

You guys are sparking the interest in me to get this thing going. Maybe later this year…or not.

I’ll be sure to blog about it.

We’ll see:)

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3111 days

#7 posted 01-06-2010 11:53 PM

there is a lot of info on youtube abaut the popcan heater it´s called solar hot air furnace
and there is a lot on there as well abaut diy solarwater system and small windmill and something abaut
magnetic engin´s (something abaut free power what ever)
maybee some of the info can help you I´m going to try the popcan heater as extra when there is sunny days
becourse it is cheap to build and will be fun to save abaut 1000 l oil a year

Dennis from Denmark

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3266 days

#8 posted 01-07-2010 12:20 AM

In my area…the biggest problem is the summer heat…winter is cold but a simple wood stove has taken care of that….I would think solar heat would require alot of storage capacity (drums of water?) or such to retain the heat for the evenings and times that the sun is not shining. I have been looking at solar cooling…and have a few ideas on that mod….I have a friend that does active solar electrical…and passive solar water heating coming over to pick his brain….If I get anything interesting I will post it here.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3111 days

#9 posted 01-07-2010 01:17 AM

passive cooling
can be done when you dig a long hole abaut 3-4 foot deep an ca 6 foot wide and 10-15 meter long
where you put 10 (I don´t now the name)snaketubes beside each other connected at the ends
with a vertical tubes that func as intake and aut and cover the tubes again
you have to place it on the north side of a building and the intake in the shadow of a tree/bush
and on the intakehole in the wall you cover with a recycled cooler from a computer and let a
small batteri and a small solarcell over an thermoswtch runs it
aircondition sheap build and exstrem sheap ever after

if you can make a flat hole it can bee made vertical


View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3266 days

#10 posted 01-07-2010 02:43 AM

Dennis, interesting post…I have seen items about adding cellar type induction systems….but nothing that small…do you have a reference where you saw that – you can send it to me by PM….I’d like to see if they have calculations as to ambient temperature reduction…

Fireguy, not intending to hijack your blog (my apologies for the distraction)....asking if Dennis can PM the info so it no longer continues in this blog. I will still post any heating information I get when the solar guy comes by.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View lumberdog's profile


245 posts in 3263 days

#11 posted 01-07-2010 05:48 AM

I built a solar heat collector about two years ago, but i used black aluminum flashing, the type you use to wrap window and door trim when you are putting up vinyl siding. i insulated the box with foam board them formed five channels for the air to run through, then put a layer of the black metal over them. Then i covered that part with a glass storm door. I mounted it on the side of my house and vented the top into the living room. The bottom is vented into the living room also, this allows the cooler air next to the floor to circulate through the panel. I live in the west central part of Michigan and the other day it was 18 degrees and the thermometer in the panel read 153 degrees, of course this was when the sun was at the best position which doesn’t last long here. I benefit from it the most in the fall and late winter and spring, usually the temps are in the 30s and 40s by then and some times in the 50s. but all together i am happy with it, as it is helping heat the room. All the materials where scavenged except for the fan control and paint and caulking, so i have about $40.00 into it, and it has worked flawlessly for almost three winters now.

-- Lumberdog.. Morley, Michigan

View cliffton's profile


117 posts in 3077 days

#12 posted 01-07-2010 07:41 AM

when i was a kid, i lived on a farm and we were very poor. My father came up with a system that even in the winter provided us with boiling hot water and plenty of heat in the house. Basically we had a 150 foot long dairy barn on our farm that along the ridge pole (top rail of a dairy barn) he ran a loop of 2 inch black pvc pipe all the way down and back so 300 feet of pvc. he had a HUGE old water heater ( think 300 gallons) that he stripped the guts out of and put a automotive electric water pump on it to circulate the water through the pipe. there was a loop so that you could isolate the water tank and still have it circulate so it woulnd’t freeze in the winter, or chill your tank water in the morning. The water would get so hot there was steam at the faucets at the end of the day. We always had to make sure to switch the loop out or turn the pump off but i think there would be some kind of timer you could put on it. the heat in the house was because there was a loop from the tank that ran through the concrete floor to heat it. it kept the house usually hotter than we kids wanted it. If you break down all the parts of it, its really simple and could be had for cheap if you salvage some of your parts. I didn’t realize this until many years later that my dad was an environmentalist! (not really and he swore at me when i told him) For having “Green” energy!


View woodnewbee's profile


76 posts in 3102 days

#13 posted 01-07-2010 04:27 PM

cliffton, i like this idea as it would complement my shop heat plan perfectly. Waterr is a great carrier of heat and used with many outdoor heat systems. thanks for the idea. WaynO

View Fireguy's profile


132 posts in 3232 days

#14 posted 01-07-2010 06:56 PM

Cliffton, Where did you grow up?

Some of the reasearch I have done makes it look as though the pop can style would not generate enough heat / air voulme to make any sagnificant impact for area it would take up atleast in wisconsin where the sun is at a low angle and produces a limited impact in the winter. But using water as the thermal mass would be far more productive and effeiciant as far as prodicing heat, but creates limitaions with space as it needs a storage tank.

I have some thoughts that I will get together and add to the blog. I think there are some great possabilites for a cheap supplamental heat sorce with solar, may just take some trial and error to get it right.

-- Alex

View Woodstock's profile


253 posts in 3284 days

#15 posted 01-08-2010 04:52 AM

Lumberdog described something I saw a lot of in the mid 80’s one miserably cold winter working outside 10-12 hours everyday in the snow in Blacksburg, VA. (Ahh, to be 19 & invincible again! Or was it ignorent being from Calif where it never gets really cold…. -30 below outside and -10 below inside Christmas morning with a non working kerosene heater w/ water in the feed line frozen solid. But that’s another story.)

Many of the college kids and locals had a long insulated wooden box with a slanted glass front on top, on the south side of their mobile homes. A corrugated aluminum black metal divider inside several inches below a slanted glass top with slot openings in the back of the box matched up to the mobile home top & bottom to allow cold air in at the base and get pulled in by the air that was warmed by the metal plate and the glass. The heated air would rise up the channel to the top of the box & reenter the mobile home, completing the circuit. These were passively run.

(A more updated idea) Add to the thermostatically controlled small 12VDC computer box fan, try using a couple of Harbor Freight/PEP Boys solar car battery chargers wired in parallel (not series) would be a neat addition to help move air. When the sun gets low, the fan stops. No additional power from a wall wart required.


-- I'm not old. Just "well seasoned".

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