The backyard shed is probably one of the most common structures found on properties worldwide, and why wouldn’t they be? They can serve a variety of purposes! Some use them to house their hobbies. Others use them for added storage. There are those, yet, who find ways to turn their backyard sheds into a sanctuary of their very own.
For such small structures, there is a world of purposes they might serve. They can be converted into chicken houses or rabbit barns. They can become wood-shops or greenhouses or even home offices! Converting your backyard shed can be a great project, but it doesn’t come without its own set of obstacles.
Whether you are an off-grid homesteader, a small farmer, a hobby carpenter, or looking at setting up your own “she-shed” or “man cave” on your property, you’ve probably already thought about the quandary of how to provide heat. While there are many ways that heat can be provided, this article will focus on one of the world’s most efficient practices of heating a small space without an outside electrical source: Solar Power.
As technology in solar power develops, we are constantly learning new and inventive ways to harness the sun’s energy for our own purposes. After all- heating, cooling, and refrigeration can add up to over half of our home’s energy costs! It’s well worth the effort to try to find a more economical way to harness and hold heat.
The first step to proper heating is to make sure your shed is adequately insulated. The easiest way to check this is, again, to look at Mother Nature. Wait for a windy and rainy day, then go stand in your shed. Take note of any cool breezes or water leaks that might be more obvious at that moment than they are at others. Make a mental note, or mark the problematic areas with paint or some other method so that you can come back during dryer, more compliant weather to fix the issues.
Once you are properly insulated, it’s time to look at your solar harnessing options.
At the beginning of the solar energy boom, buildings were equipped and fitted with numerous solar panels to help catch the rays of the sun. Today, when you mention solar energy, most people still imagine these unsightly panels lined up side to side on rooftops. These solar panels would all connect to one another, then run to a battery which they charged throughout the day. The energy they collected would keep the battery at full capacity as long as the sun was shining. When the sun went down, the battery would begin depleting, sometimes quite rapidly.
Because the battery was always working, it would acquire a lot of wear and tear. Some of the first users of solar panels discovered that their batteries wore out so rapidly, they were not seeing much of an economical difference between paying for their electricity or buying new batteries!
The good news is that, today, solar panels are far more efficient. Many solar panels are being manufactured differently. Instead of storing solar energy in batteries, they are now storing the energy in something more natural and less likely to wear out- Water.
By installing a water heater in your shed, you can use solar panels to deliver the sun’s energy into the lower heating element of the heater. By turning the lower heating element to a much higher heat setting than the upper heating element, you can actually cause your water heater to use a negative amount of wattage, which will keep your electric cost for your shed at zero. A water heater that is left unused will store heat for a very long amount of time. Once the sun goes down, there will still be heat emanating from the heater, itself. In a well-insulated shed, you can realistically expect the heat to keep temperatures comfortable for most- or, in some cases, all- of the night.
Alternatively you can also get a stand alone system for your solar powered water heater. They range in price but are more cost effective than buying and installing solar panels. These systems can be easily purchased online. This Heat Streamer from Amazon is moderately priced and can be a diy project for you to install or it can be installed by an expert.
This is just one easy solar energy system that is fairly inexpensive and simple to install and maintain. There is one more that should also be discussed. This one is extremely inexpensive, albeit not as effective. However, for someone who only intends to use their shed in the daylight hours, it’s an absolute must.
Again, the first step of this process is to check your insulation. Since we have already discussed how the properly check for air leaks and places where a cold draft or water leak might find its way in, we will move on to step two.
Step two is an interesting one. You need to go dumpster diving! There are a few “junk” materials that you will need to provide solar heat to your shed using this secondary method. These items include a case of soda cans, black spray paint, and small scrap sheet of insulation, scrap lumber, and an old window with its frame.
Next, you spray paint your empty cans black. It is important that the cans be in tact and not crushed, however. If you crush the cans, they won’t hold heat and are, therefore, useless in this project. Once the cans are spray painted, give them time to dry. As you do this, secure scrap lumber around the edges of your window frame, creating a box where the glass is on the bottom. Then, line your soda cans up side to side inside the box and cover with your scrap insulation, securing the cans inside.
You will now drill holes into the scrap lumber sides of your box, all the way through, piercing the soda cans. You have now created a solar box.
Leave your solar box outside, glass side up. The glass and soda cans will capture the heat of the sun over several hours. You can then take the solar box into your shed where the heat will escape and rise through the drilled holes. When the box is too cool to be functional, take it back outside to absorb more heat.
Because this is such an economical solution to heating a small area, many who use this method actually create several solar boxes so they can always keep them in rotation. With a little bit of time and careful monitoring, you can determine how many hours it takes to heat your solar box, and how many hours it can provide heat once taken out of the sun.
Using either of these methods provides a safe, Eco-friendly heat source for your back yard shed. In using the sun’s rays, rather than electricity, you are not only saving yourself money, but also eliminating certain risks- such as that of a lighting striking an underground wire, or an electrical fire taking hold of your structure. Solar energy is cheaper (as in free!) and safe.
You can house animals, provide a place for your children to play, or even set up your own cozy reading space without worry of injury or loss of property. You can also rest easy knowing your pocket book is safe from any economic hardship that installing an electrical source might create.
Happy building, and have fun soaking up the sun!