Hot Air or Hot Water?

I am interested in building a straw bale studio on my property and would like to heat the slab with hot air from a solar collector. Our climate is very mild, some frosts but no snow. Could you give me information I can use in designing and building such a system? Dave R Otaki, New Zealand

Dave, Traditional solar water heating panels, using water or ethylene glycol, connected to a small PV-driven pump and a piping system that is embedded in the concrete slab would heat the area. It’s called a radiant heating system in the States. Water holds heat longer and will get hotter. Radiant heating systems can be operated by a boiler or hot water tank. However, Bill Guiney of Solargenix, a North Carolina company that has installed radiant heating systems, said “The low temperature requirements of the radiant heating system uses all the daily solar gain and maximizes the energy savings for the consumer.” Don Bradley of Solar Strategies in Pennsylvania cautions a few things. You need a lot of hot water storage, from 400 to 700 gallons depending on the square footage (or square meters) to be heated. If the concrete is at grade level you must insulate it properly. Concrete in non-basement levels, on the first or second floor, needs a properly engineered floor system because concrete tends to crack when it’s poured over wood sub-floors. This can increase the cost. Residential buildings are not the only buildings that can benefit from a radiant heating system powered by solar thermal. There are systems used in larger buildings, such as the Gobi System manufactured by Heliodyne of California, as well. Scott Sklar
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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