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Say Goodbye to Your Electric Heating Bill

If you look in a newspaper or magazine, chances are that you will stumble across an article about solar power. Solar power is rapidly becoming popular once again, along with the development of solar radiant floor heating systems. I remember back in the early 1970’s when solar was first gaining popularity in the United States mostly due to the energy crisis at the time. History has a way of repeating itself.

Electric heating bill

The purpose of this blog is not to go into great detail about solar power. There is more information on the web about that, compared to anything I could possibly cover in this article. Speaking of an article, I read an industry-related magazine on solar power not too long ago. The one thing that really stuck with me is that electric energy is the only energy source that can be produced from truly renewable sources. It's exciting to be in the energy business!

If you are thinking about utilizing solar power there are a variety of ways that you can adapt this technology with other products that provides in order to create solar radiant floor heating systems. In short, solar panels are utilized to convert the sun’s energy into electrical energy. These panels are referred to as photovoltaic panels. These panels are silent and last a long time without creating pollution. The drawbacks of photovoltaic panels are the upfront cost and the challenge of storing the electrical energy and then once again converting the energy back to AC power.

One of the many applications in using photovoltaic solar panels is to partner them up with our STEP Warmfloor electric radiant floor heating systems , creating a solar radiant heating systems. The STEP Warmfloor heating element can be installed in a sand bed beneath the slab concrete of a newly constructed home. Since the STEP Warmfloor heating element can operate with 24 VDC power coming out of a solar panels, it is easy to tie these two technologies together.

The very first step in this type of project is to conduct a heat loss study. In order to properly size the amount of STEP Warmfloor heating elements and the total size of the solar panel array an understanding of how much heat energy is going to be needed to comfortably heat the home at design conditions is needed. I learned a simple and valuable lesson from a colleague in the industry that I have great admiration and respect for. He simply stated, “Do the Math”. A heat loss is critical because it prevents the purchaser from buying more heating elements and solar panels than needed, while also ensuring adequate heat.

Secondly, the heating elements need to be buried in a washed sand bed approximately 12 inches beneath the concrete slab of the home. The electrical wires from these heating elements will be stubbed up above the concrete to a central area where it will eventually connect to the solar equipment and controls. Next, as you have read in other blogs, there will be slab edge insulation installed along the sides of the slab to prevent spillage or leakage of the heat. This is a critical step, as the heat energy created should not be able to reach the outside edges of the slab. Since we took this into account with our heat loss, we certainly do not want to miss this important phase of construction.

Finally, the solar panels will be sized by a professional contractor in accordance to the amount of watts needed to meet the home’s heat loss. These panels will either be mounted on a roof or on a ground assembly.

So how does it work? During the daylight hours the photovoltaic solar panels will absorb the sun’s energy and act like a trickle charger to send the low voltage renewable power to the STEP Warmfloor heating elements buried in the sand. This renewable electrical source will store this heat energy in a large mass under your home.

You may be questioning, “How do I shut off or regulate the heat?” or “What about the evening hours when the sun is not shining, how can the system provide heating then?” The answers are simple. Because the energy is stored in a thermal reservoir, the required heat is ready to use when the sun is no longer available. In this type of thermal storage system, the energy created by the solar panels just tops off the electrical energy needed to the low voltage elements. When evening arrives, the natural heat loss of the home will invisibly utilize the heat storage beneath the slab to radiate through the concrete slab to heat your home. The next morning, the entire process begins again.

It’s a simple concept, but your home utilizes more energy on cold days and less on warm days. Once your renewable thermal storage heating system has reached potential, it takes very little power from the solar panels to maintain the thermal storage capability. The photovoltaic panels can offset other heating loads in the home.

Solar power appears to be here to stay. The application of utilizing solar panels and STEP Warmfloor as a solar radiant heating system represent what can be done now to achieve total energy independence and provide energy efficient heating for your home.

(By the way, I like saying photovoltaic as it makes me appear to be smart!)

On the next blog, we will look at an example of a return on investment with photovoltaic panels and STEP Warmfloor mix of technologies.