So, there is this giant fireball in the sky that we call the sun. It sends down oodles of powerful electromagnetic radiation upon us every day, and we mostly just use it to get a good tan.
We have all heard of solar PV panels that magically convert this solar radiation into electricity,
but have you heard of a different kind of solar collector that turns this awesome solar radiation into HEAT?
If your answer in “…umm, no?”, then you MUST keep reading!
Your future, everyone else’s future and the future of Earth depends upon You learning more!
Solar space heaters (often referred to as solar air heaters, solar collectors, solar furnaces, solar pop-can heaters…) are insulated boxes with a black interior metal something-or-other and a clear polycarbonate (like that tough Lexan, plastic glass stuff) or real glass covering, mounted on a sun-facing wall or roof of a building.
They collect solar radiation and transform it into heat!
You know how when you wear a totally black outfit and sit in the sun you get super hot as compared to when you wear, oh, say, something very bright and reflective, like a white, sequined, disco jumpsuit? Well that is solar heating science at work!
There are two main types of solar air heaters:
- “Closed-loop solar air heaters”: With these, air from within the home or building is pumped through vents in the walls into the solar collector box, where it becomes really hot and is then pumped back into the building. Fantastic free heating!
- “Open-loop Solar Air heaters”: These take the cold air from outside the building and preheat it before it is pumped into the building. This type of solar air heater is often used for large, industrial buildings that require extra ventilation. Definitely some free-heating, plus fresh air! (-assuming the air outside is not polluted)
Ok, Now You Need a Very Quick History Lesson:
The history of solar air heaters began a few decades ago with creative hippies going back to the land and doing all sorts of innovative and nutty stuff.
They started building the original solar heaters which used no fans at all and relied upon the natural convection of heated air to flow from the top of the solar collector, through the upper vent and into the home at ceiling level. But, this natural, hippy air-flow by convection is very minimal and not the ideal way to heat any space, especially NOW, with all this amazing technology at our fingertips in the 21st Century.
Alright, here comes the good stuff!
In 2013, along struts this plucky, young company from Canada, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc., with an incredible invention called Okapi that has turned the world of solar heating upside-down, literally!
Julian Jameson, creator and inventor of the Okapi Systems, was having fun YouTubing in 2012, and to his great surprise, discovered that the science of solar air heating was way, way, way behind the times.
Jameson, who has a very cool background in computer and video game design and programming, in addition to electronics, realized how important it is to be able to control the flow-rate and direction of the air that passes through the solar collector box.
-Good-bye, Hippy Passive Solar Heating.
Hello, Futuristic Active Solar Heating!
A bit of a ‘mad scientist’, Jameson thought actively blowing hot air out at the ceiling was pretty much pointless, too, and the world deserved much better. He determined that precise variable-speed fan control systems operating solar space heaters made them all heat a room better, and heat it more often! And so, he invented the Okapi Systems: variable-speed fan control systems that effectively heat a space by blowing the hot air out at floor-level and maximizing the solar heat harvest!
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
Well, it gets even better.
It turns out that we are polluting our precious air throughout all the cold months of the year around this planet burning wood, oil, gas, coal and sometimes dung. This air pollution from all this smoke is contributing to sickness and death, increasing the CO2 in our atmosphere and creating climate change!
We are all burning stuff to stay warm during the cold seasons, when on sunny or even just partial-sunny days,
we shouldn’t be burning a darn thing!
And so, off goes this daring, new company, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies, dancing around the internet with their crazy brand, “Okapi” (named after an obscure animal that hardly anyone has heard of: a cousin of the giraffe, but it has stripes and a much shorter neck). They had a successful Kickstarter Project in 2013 to finalize their first product line of intelligent, variable speed fan control systems, then had another successful Kickstarter Project this fall of 2014 for their new wireless options!
It turns out there are a lot of old, young and new hippies out there trying to change the world for the better!
In fact, there are thousands of people building these solar space heaters and putting them on their homes, log cabins, cottages, garages, workshops, barns, sheds and doghouses! And now, there are actually commercially available solar air heaters! Yes, you can go out and buy one! Except, their fan control systems don’t hold up when compared to the patent pending, innovative features of the Okapi Systems. Eventually, all these commercial solar air heaters are going to have to have Okapi Systems operating them in order to optimize their solar heat harvests.
Alright, you are feeling like you have learned something new, now, and that always feels pretty sweet. It gives you hope for a future with less pollution, a healthier planet, and yes, you could save a lot of money on your heating bills, too! (And, wow, aren’t those heating bills getting outrageous?!)
So here’s the punch line: Wireless Modules & the Okapi Viewer App
The Okapi Fan Controls Systems can now come equipped with data broadcasting abilities. With the “Okapi Viewer App” you can read the performance of your solar space heater instantly on your smart phone or tablet devices. You can also connect with your computer, log data, then graph the performance of your solar space heaters.
Congratulations: You are now a Solar Space Heating Cadet!
Well done: you have learned a lot.
Now, your mission is to share this knowledge with others.
You can do it.
You can make this technology popular. You can learn more.
You can train all your friends and family to become Solar Space Heating Cadets, too.
You can build and install a solar space heater.
The future is now: Check it out, get involved and change the world.
Make the Next Generation Proud.
Happy Solar Space Heating Season!