DIY Energy Systems

Energy is one of the most important factors that determine what makes us feel comfortable in our homes, whether it is a hot shower in winter or a cool shelter that gives refuge from the burning sun in summer. However, this comfort doesn’t necessarily require expensive systems, that suck a lot of energy from the main grid.

For everyone who likes to take matters in their own hands, save resources, or with the intention to get off the grid, to get ready for the apocalypse, there are a lot of smart manuals available for building your own heating and cooling systems for your home. For our summer school program, we wanted to investigate and experiment with some of these. Thus this introduction to the world of (almost) free energy.

SOLAR WATER HEATER

There are many different ways to build your own solar water heater, depending on your needs and the location you are living in. However, the basic principles are consistent. Most of these systems work with a solar collector, that is exposed to the sun and heats the water as well as a tank, to store the heated water. These two could be combined in one structure or installed separately. If you don’t want to use a water pump to maintain a water circulation, you can make use of the thermosiphon principle, which generates a natural water flow, powered by gravity. Cold water is heavier and drops, warm water becomes buoyant and rises. Water from the main grid flows into the solar collector, which is positioned at such an angle, that the most effective use of the sun is ensured.

Once heated by the sun, the water gets naturally pushed out at the top of the collector and runs to the storage tank.

For a homebuilt solar collector you can choose to build a tank or a flat collector made out of metal pipes. The storage tank can be any tank, but it is necessary to ensure a proper insulation to keep the maximum of the generated heat. For a household with four persons, a 300 liter tank should be sufficient.

Solar hot water- Overview

Manual- Coper Tube Collector

Manual- Solar water heater with pump

SOLAR AIR HEATER

A great solution to heat your home in sunny winter days is a simple, self built solar air heater. This system works with two principles; black surfaces absorb light and therefore attract heat and the thermosiphon principle creates a natural circulation of the air. A flat, black painted box needs to be installed on a sun facing facade, sealed with glass and isolated properly. Two openings, at the bottom and the top of this box ensure the natural flow of air. The cold air in the inside drops and enters the box on the bottom and rises as it gets heated by the sun. The warm air enters the room on the top and more cold air gets suck in the box at the bottom. This system can be enhanced by installing a fan on the top of the box, to blow the heated air in the inside.

It is important to consider this solution as a complement to other heating methods, as the air heater functions only during sunny days.

Solar air heaters- Overview

Manual- Solar hot air collector

Solar hot air collectors: Pop Can vs Screen Absorbers

ECO-COOLER

The Bangladeshi inventor Ashis Paul came up with an easy and effective system to cool your home without using electricity, an eco-friendly air conditioner made from plastic bottles. The Eco-Cooler works with the cooling effect of moving air. Plastic bottles are cut in half and mounted on a board. The board is placed on a window, with the bottlenecks facing towards the inside of the house. The cooling effect is created when the air enters the wider part of the bottle and comes out through the bottleneck. Because of the narrowing, the air increases its speed and compresses, creating a cooling effect, similar to a fan.

The Eco-Cooler can cause a decrease in temperature up to 5 °C. The inexpensiveness and the immediate effect makes this system considerable, especially in very hot and humid regions.

We’re anxious to experiment with similar solutions during our workshop this summer!

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