Hacked Gadgets Forum

November 16, 2011

Solar Pop Can Heater System Build Roundup

at 11:24 pm. Filed under Complex Hacks, DIY Hacks, Educational


Solar Pop Can Heating Systems are getting quite popular these days. As heating costs rise everyone is looking for ways to save on their energy bill. Most people are aware of insulating and using good weatherstripping to keep the heat in and the cold out but many don’t know about the alternate heating methods that are available. One of the alternative heating methods that is gaining some traction is capturing the heat energy from the sun and using it to heat the inside of your house.

These systems use black aluminum tubes to capture the heat from the sun, as the heat rises in the tubes it is collected in an upper plenum which is then ducted into the house. These systems can be built quite inexpensively since the main component of the system are the aluminum tubes which can be constructed from recycled pop cans. These pop cans get the top and bottom cut out, then they are stacked together to form an air tight tube, after a flat black paint job they are ready to soak up the heat from the sun.

Wyatt West Ranch Solar Pop Can Heater

Zsnowshredder has built one of these Pop Can Solar Heaters which has 17 aluminum tubes made from 204 aluminum pop cans. He has cut a circular hole in one end of the can and used tin snips to cut a fin shaped design in the other end. This is used to make the air swirl as it rises in the tube. Four inch dryer venting is used to move the air in and out of the heater. A solar atic fan is used to blow the cold room air into the bottom of the heater. This will allow the hot air to be forced out of the top. The fan is a 200 CFM unit and allows for temperatures of around 133 degrees to be blown into the room with an outdoor temperature of 47 degrees. He was able to get 155 degrees during initial testing but this was when it was angled at a better angle to the sun. The installed position of the heater is flat against the building which caused the angle to the sun to not be optimal and caused the loss in heating. A simple mirror on the ground is allowing him to boost some of the light energy that is hitting the pop can heater.

Rich Allen Solar Heater using Pop Can Spacers

Rich Allen from Detroit, Michigan made a solar heater that can produce temperatures of 160 degrees with an outdoor temperature of 54 degrees. Technically this isn’t a pop can heater since it doesn’t use the pop cans for the aluminum tubes but it does use pop cans as internal spacers. The solar heat collecting portion of this heater is a section of metal roofing. Once the metal roofing has been painted black it works great at soaking up the heat from the sun. With a fan blowing the hot air out of the system Rich is able to maintain a heating temperature of around 140 degrees.

Rich Allen 64 Pop Cans Solar Heater

With this 64 pop can design Rich is able to get 128 degree heat output with air intake temperature of 57 degrees. This system is in a  treed area that doesn’t get direct sun. I can just imagine how it would perform in direct sun. The system was mounted to the door of the workshop and doesn’t use any electricity since the fan is powered from a battery that is charged by a solar panel.

Solar Heater using 168 Pop Cans

Sharpshooterofky has built his 168 can solar pop can heating system by starting with a wood box that was filled with rigid styrofoam. Two 4 inch hoses are used to bring the air in and out of the box. Two 12 volt computer fans are used to blow cool air in the bottom and suck the hot air out the top. This design doesn’t use the upper and lower air chambers as most of the other designs do, instead it uses the cans to collect heat and transfer the heat into the inside of the insulated box. With an outdoor temperature of around 30 degrees he is able to get 180 degrees out of the system after soaking in the sun for about 154 minutes.

Soda Can Thermo Siphon Air Panel Design Testing

DrewTracey is experimenting with many designs to determine what the optimal system is. The designs he is looking into is one where ends of the cans are completely cut out, one where one end is cut out completely and the other end has a small hole in it, one that has two fins in it to swirl the air, one that has a number of holes punched in it and finally a design that has holes punched in the perimeter of the bottom of the cans. Instead of using glue or adhesive to seal the cans together he uses a thermal expansion method to join the cans together.  Turns out the testing was inconclusive.

Test 90 Can Solar Heater

Mike from Maine built his pop can heater with 90 cans, he is feeding and sucking from the same end which is a concept that I have not seen before. With an outdoor temperature of around 35 degrees he is getting around 110 degree hor air out of the system. His fans are stuck together using RTV sealant. His system uses a 100 CFM fan and blows the air through a filter to keep the air nice and clean. This was just a test on his garage built in a way that a larger system would need to be built like for his house. Since there is no insulation in the garage this heater can not heat the garage fully.

Angled Solar Pop Can Heater

This system that Joshua built is angled to get optimal sun exposure. Insulated pipes are used to transfer the air to and from the system. He is using some thermal switches to monitor the temperature which turns on the system only when it is hot enough. It got so hot in the system that it melted the small thermometer that was built into the system behind the glass.