DIY Solar Power

Do it Yourself Residential Solar Energy

How To Build A Cheap Solar-Powered Furnace With Pop Cans

The idea of using pop cans to heat a building may sound a little strange at first, but a Canadian company has proved the idea makes great sense. Cansolair Inc. has used aluminum cans in it’s solar panels for over 10 years now, and they’ve even won awards for their design.

Why Pop Cans?

The company’s heaters, made with used aluminum cans, are not only cheaper than other types, but have proven to be very efficient as well. The company reports exponential growth over the past few years.

Cansolair’s solar heater takes up a little less area than a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood and is about 4 1/2 in. thick. It can produce up to 10,000 BTUs per hour and will raise the temperature of the air passing through it by up to 50F. A fan increases it’s efficiency by forcing the air through the columns of cans.

How They Work

The heaters are frequently installed on the outside walls of a building, and of course, in a location that gets a lot of sun. While they won’t help you much on a cloudy day, they can make a big difference in your heating bill on cold sunny days.

The heaters are designed to draw air from the floor level of a room and pass it directly to the solar panel outside, where it is forced through the columns of cans, which have holes cut in the tops and bottoms to allow air flow. The air is then returned through the wall near the ceiling level and at up to 50F higher temperature.

The cans work well because they are constructed of thin-walled aluminum which has excellent thermal properties. Black paint on the outside to aid in heat absorption. Other materials could work as well, but would be much more expensive.

You Can Build Your Own Aluminum Can Furnace

Cansolair may be the only company that is producing these units commercially, but there have been many other people who have built their own using easily available materials.

Frank Gombik of Ontario, Canada built one to heat his workshop in the winter, and Daniel Strohl of Vermont built one to heat his garage.

Daniel used the south-facing side of his garage as a location for his solar furnace after noting that sunshine was just bouncing off the garage and being wasted. He built a simple free-standing heater that contains 45 pop cans and uses vacuum cleaner hoses to pipe air to and from his garage.

Frank incorporated his solar panel right into a set of double-doors that he need to replace anyway on his workshop. He used a total of 176 cans in his unit, and also added some electronics to measure and record temperatures inside and out.

Construction of an aluminum can solar heater is not too difficult. The materials are commonly available and inexpensive, you’ll be doing your part to conserve natural resources, not to mention you get free heating in the winter!

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