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Baseboard Active Solar Heating

Baseboard heating systems are simply variations on solar hot water systems. Rather than the water being stored for potable use, it is stored and circulated through pipes in living spaces that require heat. There are two basic ways to use a baseboard heating system.

The first use of baseboard heating is the traditional systems that run hot water piping through units that mount to the walls. These units may or may not contain fans that blow across the hot water pipes and thus circulate warm air through a room. One of the advantages of such a system is older systems that relied on fossil-fuel boilers can be retrofitted to accommodate solar hot water systems.

The second system uses hot water pipes that are embedded in high thermal mass units. These units are warmed by the water and then dissipate heat through conduction into the room. These types of units are much less common.

Advantages

The biggest advantage to a baseboard system is installation. It is both simple and inexpensive compared to other systems. When the system is built using a drainback solar hot water setup, then it is nearly maintenance free and can operate for years with little upkeep.

Whether powered by solar or traditional means, these systems can be helpful for allergy sufferers because they do not circulate air through a room (so long as they are devoid of fans). They also do not require fresh air intakes and thus do not pull in allergens from the outdoors.

Another advantage to baseboard heating is that it can be combined with a solar hot water system to deliver both heat and potable hot water. Such installations are generally complicated, but can be accomplished if desired.

Drawbacks

There are two major drawbacks to such a system. The first is efficiency. These are one of the least efficient ways to heat a room, though for large buildings they may be more efficient than other mechanisms. Hot water pipes usually need to reach 80 degrees Celsius to provide adequate heat to the average sized room. This is 60 degrees above the standard room temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, which means a lot of heat energy must be input to make these systems effective.

The second drawback to such systems is that they often cannot create enough heat energy based on solar alone and require a fossil-fuel backup. For a single room, these systems can operate alone, for an entire home, a large collection of solar collectors is necessary to provide enough heat energy. This can be expensive and so these systems are often supplemented by more traditional heating mechanisms.
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