DIY Solar Heating Panels


A variety of solar heating panels are commercially available to the home owner and more are available to the Do it Yourselfer. Sooo� How do we choose a solar application that�s right for our own needs? How do we plan an energy independent house or should we plan an energy independent house? OR should we settle on supplementing heat energy with a solar hot water or solar heating system. Do we need a high temperature system or a high heat gain system? Should we use the entire surface area of our roof or confine our DIY plumbing to small area. What kind of solar heat recovery system should be used? How should we store heat? How should heat be distributed? Where should we store heat and is our house suitable for a solar application?

Bob's year round MTD solar greenhouse in Canada




Evacuated tubes minimize heat loss so they are able to achieve higher temperatures than standard flat plates; however they are expensive and quite fragile and prone to leak around the top heat exchange bulb. Another thing to remember about evacuated tube systems has to do with efficiency. Even though they achieve higher temperatures than standard flat plate collectors they will generally harvest less heat with the same surface area exposed to sunlight. This lower efficiency has a lot to do with the reflection of light off the curved glass surface.


Closed loop flat plate collector systems use low cost, low power consumption pumps, but they also need antifreeze in cold climates, fill and drain spigots, in all climates, as well as a pressure relief valve, an expansion tank and a degasser. Air trapped inside a closed loop system will render the circulator pump useless. So be sure to purge all the air out of closed loop systems before turning the pump on.




Open loop flat plate collectors systems do not not need antifreeze or all the other paraphernalia associated with closed loop systems, but they do require a high head reservoir to increase the pump efficiency. Properly sloped plumbing is also essential to assure that water drains back from the collector. Narrow copper tubing used in most drainback systems are a concern since frozen water may accumulate around a restricted drainage system.


Conventional open loop and also closed loop solar heating systems use copper flow tubes and copper based heat exchange systems. Small, conventional, three collector systems might become a practical investment for some people, but a serious, large DHW and solar heating system would be impractical in most cases until now with the invention of MTD solar heating system. 



MTD solar heating was specially designed for DIY solar heating projects. No soldering is required but carpentry skills are a must. These six MTD collectors built and installed by Richard Heiliger's were among the first used to heat a house in a cold climate. Although the outside temperature in Northern Utah often plummets below -30 F a sun filled sky is all it takes to add heat to Richard's home. 

Richard uses just one 250 gallon heat storage tank, but multiple tanks could be used to increase heat collection efficiency.

Not every day is ideal for solar heat collection, but with enough collectors and enough heat storage it is possible to get through the coldest days that winter has to offer. We do have alternatives. If we don't have the right kind of house or the right kind of property we can at least plan for a day when the opportunities for energy independence outweigh the burdens of fossil fuel dependence.

MTD Solar Collector Kits

MTD Solar Heating
MTD Solar Home 
MTD Data

Energy Alternatives 

Green Collar Work

Solar Heat in December