Did you know that a small (~1kW) array of solar panels can generate enough heat for a typical room in a home or shop? In fact the idea is so simple, so good and so affordable, it ought to be in every home.
Note: due to the complexity and safety issues of modifying AC space heaters for PV, I produced a “Beginner-friendly” DIY space heater video – link here
(Please see below for DIY video series) Updated 1/23/2023
DIY Direct Solar Electric space heaters
One of my heaters running straight off of solar panels
For a long time I have been using DIY custom built solar electric space heaters to heat my home. They connect directly to my solar arrays, utilizing safer low voltage DC (direct current) instead of high voltage AC (alternating current, typical household electricity). This is called PV-To-Load (PV2L) as in the solar panels feed power straight to the load (heater in this case).
Anytime the sun is shining, they produce heat. My workshop is also heated this way.
These DIY solar heaters have already reduced my heating bill, in fact, sometimes generating too much heat so I have to turn them off.
As the weather gets colder and colder, heat will become of critical importance. In this article I will present the case for DC solar electric heating.
I hope that manufacturers will catch on to this technology, and produce a safe and reliable UL rated system for the average homeowner. But for now I have been building these solar electric heating systems in my workshop as an ongoing DIY project.
Why it matters
Testing custom quartz infrared heating tube running off of solar panels in my workshop
Heating is one of the highest costs of maintaining a home during the winter. Even if the solar panels are providing only a supplemental source of heat, it is renewable energy and won’t increase utility bills.
Solar heating promotes freedom and independence. It is also a great way to dispose of excess solar power (known as a dump load).
Imagine if you could burn one less tank of propane, chop down one less tree, or reduce your electric bill (and maybe all three for some people) and still keep your home warm. Solar electric heating allows the homeowner to tap into the sun to get extra heat and depend less on normal sources.
Utilizing excess power from existing solar panels to heat a home makes a lot of sense, even if you have a battery bank or are considered off the electrical grid. When the batteries are full, what are those solar panels doing, other than getting older in the sun? Using the excess power helps pay for them faster as well.
If using a Grid Tie Inverter to support an AC circuit with heating loads, it makes more sense to run the PV straight to the heating appliance and save wear on the GTI.
Solar Electric vs. Solar Thermal
There is a good case for Solar Thermal heating, and I’m all for it. But Solar Electric heating utilizes solar panels which are considerably more flexible.
Solar Electric can easily produce heat, cold (air conditioning, freezer, refrigerator), charge batteries, and power your entire house. Plus it has the ability to transmit heat and power over relatively small and affordable wires.
Solar Thermal with its pipes, plumbing, valves, coolant pumps, blowers, heat exchangers and whatever else is required, is a different story altogether. In the summer it is mainly limited to producing hot water and that’s about it. It is possible to produce electricity with Solar Thermal, but the systems tend to be complex and not as common.
DIY PV2L Solar electric heater build series on YouTube: Part 1 / Part 2
I am currently recording and editing a series of videos where I will show DIY solar enthusiasts how to build custom solar electric space heaters that can run off of low voltage DC from solar panels or a battery bank. The process has been very slow due to my health and many other issues, so the video will be uploaded as soon as it’s ready as several parts.
The videos I have recorded so far are posted below. Check out the Solar Power Edge YouTube channel for videos about this topic and many others.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned – DD
Part 1 and Part 2 posted below. It is a brief show and tell about one of my custom heaters. Part 2 show more detailed DIY / how-to build information.
Another more recent video showing a more beginner-friendly version of this setup – utilizing small car / truck cab heaters and PTC heaters 12/24V:
One response to “(Updated) Solar Panels can heat your Home or Shop – DIY video series”
[…] supporting an AC circuit which is running resistance heating, why not just run the PV straight to a PV2L heater? Far more efficient, saves wear and tear on the GTI, and a cheaper setup […]