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

EPA Grant Number: SU836024
Title: Heating Attic Air Using Solar Thermal Energy for Space Heating and Drying Applications
Investigators: Chau, Kenny , Villanueva, Ariana E. , Agbonwaneten, Etinosa J. , Opot, Stephen R. , Lozano, Jesse S. , Tam, Kawai , Matsumoto, Mark , Nguyen, Nhat
Institution: University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Air Quality , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Energy consumption from air heating units such as clothes dryers and space heating (e.g. forced air) make up 15.9% of the total energy demand in the residential sector. An innovative design that utilizes solar thermal energy to heat ambient air for these air-heating home appliances and space heating needs can sustainably reduce the overall energy contribution from this sector.


A solar collector will be used to heat air to be diverted into a closet intended for clothes drying as well as into the home for space heating. The solar collector unit will comprise aluminum, copper, or carbon steel piping and will be designed to provide an air effluent sufficient to dry clothes. Testing will take place monthly in an 1100 ft2 model home at the Victory Gardens Community of 30 homes and will be evaluated to determine the time for effectively drying clothing and supplementing heat for the home. Thermocouple and humidity sensors will be installed at selected locations of intake and exhaust ducts to characterize the heat transfer capacities and will be used to design the space heating capabilities for the home. Results from these tests will determine the drying capabilities throughout the year. A PID controller system will be investigated for ease in control of the unit as well as to provide options for the user. A pilot experiment to determine the efficiency and performance of the clothes drying aspect will also be done. Testing will be carried out with members from the non-profit organization, Engineers Without Borders-UCR. An education plan in the community will be implemented to highlight the importance of energy conservation as well as the cost savings that result from the design.

Expected Results:

This unit is expected to replace the conventional forms of drying and will be able to supplement space heating. Replacement of these current forms of drying and space heating will result in the reduction of energy consumption from this sector which will also lead to cost savings for the users. Because testing will be done in conjunction with Engineers Without Borders-UCR, it is also anticipated to be used as a learning tool for engineering students to allow students to gain hands-on experience in the application of engineering principles. Using solar thermal energy to heat air for these intended uses will reduce the total energy consumption of the residential sector as well as decrease the reliance on non-renewable resources, primarily electricity and natural gas.

Supplemental Keywords:

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

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

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