Heating Attic Air for Space Heating and Dryer Applications Using Solar Thermal

EPA Grant Number: SU835329
Title: Heating Attic Air for Space Heating and Dryer Applications Using Solar Thermal
Investigators: Tam, Kawai , Matsumoto, Mark
Institution: University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: II
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $89,933
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2012) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Energy consumption from air heating units such as clothes dryers and space heaters make up 15.9% of the total U.S. energy demand in the residential sector. An innovative design that combines air found in home attics and the use of solar thermal energy to heat ambient air for these air-heating home appliances and space heating needs can reduce the overall energy contribution from this sector.


A complete installation of our design which includes the solar collectors, thermal closet, a ventilation system, and controllers will be implemented on four homes in the Victory Gardens (VG) community over a span of two years.

The solar collectors will be built by a machinist and the construction of the thermal closet, as well as the installation of ducting and ventilation throughout the home in the VG community, will be completed by a licensed and bonded contractor. We will implement fan and valve controllers along with the ducting system of the collector and closet, which allows for both manual control and automated operation of the clothes dryer, space heating application, and humidification in the homes. Indoor air quality from the attic and the homes will be monitored and tested to ensure that the attic air is safe for use.

After installation of the units, the residents will be able to use the thermal closet for drying clothes and as a heating unit coupled with a humidification system. We will continue to monitor the air temperatures produced from the solar collectors and the relative humidity in the homes to ensure conditions do not exist for mold and mildew growth. The sensors of the user-friendly controller will ensure safe and comfortable living conditions in terms of heat and moisture in the homes. Upon installation, we will continue to meet with the VG community to receive feedback and to address any possible concerns.

Expected Results:

We expect to achieve a minimum temperature of 155°F throughout the year after optimizing the design of the solar thermal collectors. The installed system will be aesthetically pleasing, with solar collectors mounted onto the roof in a way that disguises the bulkiness of the design. A process control system with controllers and control valves will be installed with the collector/closet system to monitor and automatically operate all the applications. In the event that clothes drying and/or space heating are not desired, residents will be able to manually control the fans and valves to vent the heat to the exterior. We do not expect the attic air to be unsafe for use; however, we anticipate the use of filters will ensure the safety of the residents.

Supplemental Keywords:

alternatives, residential, home improvement, green construction, innovative technology, pollution prevention, ambient air, renewable, public good, cost-benefit

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • Final

  • P3 Phase I:

    Heating Attic Air Using Solar Thermal Energy for Space Heating and Drying Applications  | Final Report