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DIY Solar Projects Part 2: Simple All-In-One Solar Water & Space Heater

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One of the biggest challenges people face when looking to incorporate solar systems into their homes is the cost. The systems themselves, although (slowly) becoming more affordable, are expensive when purchased commercially and the installation costs can be even more so. 

DIY solar projects are a great way to take advantage of the free energy provided by the sun for a fraction of the price of a manufactured system.

Gary Reysa of Build it Solar has amassed a huge collection of solar energy projects for do-it-yourselfers on his website, including this incredible solar water and space heater in one system. He built this for about $2k out of all high-quality, readily available materials.


Solar water & space heater – Gary Reysa

Gary’s objectives with this design were to keep the system simple and inexpensive, make it easy to construct for average DIYers, use materials available in most local stores, and produce an end result that is not only aesthetically appealing but one that requires little maintenance and lasts a long time. 

It is not a quick project by any means, but it definitely provides an affordable alternative to store-bought systems.


Build it Solar

So how does it work?  In a nutshell, this is a three-part system:

  • Collector heating – water from a storage tank is circulated through a collector, where it is heated by the sun. When there is no sun on the collector, the water drains back into the tank, eliminating the need for antifreeze or heat exchangers.
  • Domestic water heating – cold water coming into the house from the main water system is heated via a pass through a coil submerged in the solar-heated water storage tank on its way to the regular water heater tank.
  • Radiant heat – hot water is taken from the solar heated storage tank and passed through floor loops, creating radiant space heat in the house.

Using all new, high quality materials, this system can be built for as little as $2000 — about one 1/8th the price of an equivalent commercial system.  Nearly all of the materials will be available at your local hardware or lumber yard. The system can be built with simple tools, and with ordinary DIY skills.

Not only does Gary provide wonderful in-depth instructions on how to build this system, he includes economic information, breaking down costs and savings. Visit his project page for this system to read the information and learn how to make one yourself, and be sure to check out the hundreds of other renewable energy projects on his site.

Photos via Gary Reysa

If you haven’t already be sure to check out DIY Solar Projects Part 1, where we show how you can make a solar heater with recycled aluminum cans.