Initial solar thermal storage building design.

December 6, 2015 Michael Ideas & InspirationPlans & ThingsThe Build

Following is a description of one way a building may be constructed to collect energy from sunlight to provide the majority of heating for free.

One side of the building would be a lean-to greenhouse facing the south, consisting of double glazed glass or two or more layers of a material with good infrared transparency. Large diameter air pipes lead from the top of the greenhouse down to a thermal battery of dry earth beneath the structure, and back again. During the summer air flow may be arranged so as to prevent the greenhouse and living space overheating by taking hot air down into the earth and returning it cooled to the living space. During the winter heat from the earth is used to generate warm air for the living space.

The floors of the greenhouse and living area may be concrete, stone, cob or some combination. The walls would be cob, rammed earth or similar, faced with earth plaster or lime. The walls would be of significant thickness and well insulated with straw bales or recycled material. The thickness of thermal mass between the insulation and the air of the room will be chosen to even out the higher frequency oscillations of temperature such as weather and the day-night cycyle. The slower oscillations of the seasons would be damped by the exchange of air through the underground thermal battery.

Fireplaces, cookers and concentrations of other heat producing appliances would be integrated with a large thermal mass and air pipe heat exchanger.

The earth comprising the thermal battery would be kept dry by the footprint of the house and by layers of insulation and waterproofing buried a short distance below the surface of the ground (a distance sufficient to accommodate the roots of those plants required to reliably stabilise the topsoil). The ground immediately surrounding the structure may be shaped into a mound and surrounded by a drainage channel. The waterproofing and insulation layer would extend down beneath ground level and become more steeply angled, producing a hemisphere of relatively dry earth.

Supplemental heating may be acheieved through solar, solid fuel, gas or liquid biofuels. A heat exchange loop may be added to the flue to divert heat from flue gasses into the thermal battery.

Built-in natural convection paths operable by manual valves would form a fallback thermal management system, but for optimal efficientcy a digital sensor and actuator network should be implemented as a distributed system of low cost embedded microcontrollers. The thermal management system will convert information about current conditions and user-supplied commands into a configuration of air flows and conditioning to achieve the command.

cobbearthearth shelteredearthshipEcohouseecovillagelow impact livingpahspassivesolarsustainable


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