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Active Solar Heating

Solar space heating, like any traditional heating method, can be accomplished using radiant heating, baseboard heating, or forced-air heating. Many solar heating options use a combination of these techniques as well as a combination of solar and conventional heating methods.

Radiant Solar Heating

Radiant heating systems supply heat directly to panels that mount on the ceiling, floor, or under flooring. These systems generally rely upon infrared radiation to produce a heating effect. To do this, radiant systems must reach only moderate temperatures to heat a room.

Baseboard Solar Heating (Liquid Heating)

Baseboard heating uses hot water that is pumped through pipes that are near to the floor and contained within apparatus that may or may not have fans to help disperse the heat. To heat a room, baseboard hot-water systems must reach temperatures of 70 to 85 degrees Celsius. In general, solar hot water systems cannot heat water beyond 50 degrees Celsius, which means that baseboard solar heating systems require a secondary system for achieving the additional heat.

Forced-Air Heating

Forced-air heating systems rely on a central heat source and fans to distribute hot air through duct systems. While forced-air systems only require moderate temperatures to heat a room, they are also inefficient due to the loss of heat by duct work and also as a result of the extra energy needed to drive the fans.


Liquid and forced-air systems are the most often combined. These systems usually place the liquid heating component of the system on the air return, which is the air that will be heated by the central component. This way, the central component does not have to provide as much heat to reach the desired temperature. Often, these systems use solar powered liquid heating (like what is found in baseboard systems) in combination with a more conventional forced-air system.

Though the combination of forced-air and liquid heating is the most common, it is not the only combination used. Radiant and forced-air is also a reasonably common combination. Radiant and baseboard combinations are less frequent.

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