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30 years of free solar heat.

My late grandmother was fond of saying, "There's nothing new under the sun except the people." This came to mind when I read "Build a Simple Solar Heater" (December/January 2007). My grandfather had a nice little beach house on the coast of New Jersey, where the family spent time each summer. We constantly clogged the bathtub drain with sand when we came back from the beach, so my grandfather built an outside shower, but the water was cold.

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Then he built a simple wooden box that lay on the ground behind the shower, its inside painted black, with copper pipe running back and forth through it, covered with a couple of old storm windows. We could then mix in hot water from his solar heater and take a warm shower to rinse off the sand.

Thirty-some years later, when my son was in high school and wanted a larger bedroom, we finished the basement. It was cool in the winter as the carpet was on top of a cement floor. There was an energy shortage in the '70s, Uncle Sam was offering a tax cut for alternative heating sources, and I remembered my grandfather's water heater.

So I designed and built my own solar heater, similar to the one in your article.

I used a 2-by-8 frame with a plywood back and painted it all white inside. To collect heat, I used lengths of dark brown aluminum downspout. I built what looked like a ladder, with two long vertical rails and as many "rungs" as would fit. I cut holes in the rails for the rungs and cut the rung ends at parallel 45 degree angles. I stacked the rungs with alternating angles, so that each one opened into the one above it. Air passing from bottom to top had to go through all the rungs, a circuitous route of about 40 feet. I covered the frame with a piece of polycarbonate. It looked somewhat like frosted glass, but sunlight passed right through.

I mounted it on the south end of the house and installed an inline fan with a thermostat that turned the fan on when it got hot, off when it cooled down. It worked well, kept my son's room nice and warm, and gave me a tax credit that year for the few dollars it cost. It lowered my overall heat bill, because it heated the basement, which heated the floor above, and the gas heater did not run as often.

About two years ago I went past that house and noticed that the heater was still there. I figure it must still be working or the owners would have removed it. And by the way, my son is now the general manager for MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

W.G. UHLER

Topeka, Kansas

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Title Annotation:dear mother
Author:Uhler, W.G.
Publication:Mother Earth News
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:468
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