Thursday, December 2, 2010

Solar Heating at Magdalena Library

by John Larson

Volunteers took a step last week toward reducing heating costs at the Magdalena library by installing a passive solar heater.
The home-built unit is attached to the southern facing outside wall of the library in the old Santa Fe depot and, according to interim librarian Don Wiltshire, is as good as a furnace “when the sun is shining.”
“It’s known as a hot air collector,” said Wiltshire. “It will definitely cut our heating bills to some extent.”
The concept is simple. “It draws in cold air out of the building from the floor, and circulates warm air back into the building,” said Wiltshire.
The apparatus has no moving parts, working only by convection.
The four-foot by eight-foot contraption is mounted flush on the outside, coming out about nine inches from the building’s wall, and has a Plexiglass layer on the outside.
“Behind that is a couple of layers of wire mesh painted black,” said Wiltshire. “There’s a four-inch vent on the bottom which draws in the cold air from inside, and another four-inch vent at the top which lets the heated air go back into the building. The only thing you see in the room are the two vents.” The upper vent is about seven feet from the floor.
He said that he feels warm air coming through almost immediately after the sun hits it.
“I came in to open the library one morning and it was already toasty,” said Wiltshire.
And Wiltshire isn’t the only one who feels that way. Library patron Michael Danielson of Magdalena said that he could feel that the library is much warmer compared to how it was before the solar heater was added.
“You can tell the difference,” said Danielson. “I put my hand up by the vent and felt hot air coming out.” He said that the new heating system will most likely cut heating costs this winter.
Once the sun goes down, however, the unit stops working, according to Wiltshire, and any cold air coming through the vents is negligible.
The addition of the heat exchanger is part of an overall effort to reduce heating costs. The installation of storm windows in October also contributes to lowering the heating bill.
Prior to the improvements the library relied on propane and electric heaters.

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