Welcome To Build-It-Solar New On The Blog

Plans, tools and information  to help you build solar shed solar space heating
renewable energy and conservation projects.

Hundreds of projects -- from changing a light bulb to building a solar homes.

Design information and tools  for building renewable energy projects.

An Experimental section for backyard inventors.

Nothing For Sale here -- just free ideas, plans, and information.

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Our small, simple, efficient
camper van conversion


efficient camper van conversion

Questions? Comments? Ideas?

If you have any questions on solar or renewable energy projects, or suggestions to make the site better, or have an energy related idea, or have a project you have done or seen elsewhere -- lets hear about it...

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Solar Heating
$2k solar space and water heater

$2K Solar Space and Water Heating System

This DIY system that provides both solar space and water heating in a single system.

The Solar Space Heating section has solar water and air heating systems with and without storage -- some 87 projects.

The Solar Water Heating section provides many DIY builds for solar water heating systems including batch, thermosyphon, drain back, and closed loop systems, solar showers, solar stock tanks, kits, ...  117 projects and ideas.

Energy Conservation
Mooney wall

Mooney Wall

A cost effective, high R value wall for retrofit or new construction.  No thermal bridging.

bubble wrap window insulation

Bubblewrap Window Insulation

The simplest and cheapest way ever to cut window heat loss about in half!

The Energy Conservation Page provides ranging from free bubble wrap window insulation to complete redo's of homes.  Insulation, appliances, window treatments, lighting, drying, ... about 150 projects and ideas.

Solar Electricity
DIY Solar PV

Our DIY Grid-Tied PV System

This system is straight forward to install, and saved more than 50% compared to a commercially installed system.

The PV section contains builds for off-grid, grid-tied,  small standalone systems, DIY mounts, PV vehicles,  PV tracking, ...  Plus PV Basics and DIY guides.
Over 90 projects to build.

Wind
Tom's Jacobs Wind Turbine

Tom Restores a Jacobs Wind Turbine Project

The  Wind Section has critical design information for DIY wind turbine builds plus dozens of DIY wind turbine projects, windmill water pumpers, ...  55 builds, guides, ...

Passive Cooling

Vines for coolingCooling with Landscaping

The Passive Cooling section has dozens of practical and low cost projects and ideas for cooling --  insulating, preventing solar gain, ventilations, shading, efficient active cooling, earth tubes, landscaping, ...  77 projects and ideas.

Water Conservation
water harvest system

2200 Gallon Water Harvest System

An easy to build 2200 gallon rain water harvest system from our shop roof.

The Water Conservation Section covers rain harvest systems of many types, efficient toilets,  grey water reuse, solar stills, ...  Plus a basics and DIY guides section.  75 builds, ideas, and guides.

 Solar Homes
Solar Home in the Sierras 

Solar Home in the Sierras

The Solar Homes section is a very large collection of information on designing and building solar and energy efficient homes -- plans, construction techniques, design information, examples ...   293 builds, plans, guides and ideas.

 
Solar Pool & Hot Tub Heating

Tom's PEX/Aluminum solar pool heating collector

The Solar Pool and Hot Tub Heating section give design and build information for solar pool and hot tub heater builds.   Plus DIY collector designs, natural pools, wood heaters, ...  44 projects. 

Solar Cooking and Drying
Bills new solar cooker

Bill's Solar Cooking Projects

The Solar Cooking and Food Drying section has more than 40 projects for building solar cookers and ovens, solar food drying, and root cellars.

References, Design Data, Calculators
Solar Site Survey 

Solar Site Survey

Its critical to do a Solar Site Survey before starting any solar project. 

The References Section has material on designing renewable energy systems, weather and sun data, pump/fan/duct/pipe sizing, heat loss calculators, materials information, component data, ... much more. 

I'm an engineer -- there is lots of analytical and design information here.

Experimental 
prototype heliostat 

Dozens of  Experimental Designs, New Ideas, Prototypes and Emerging Energy Technology

The Experimental Section -- new ideas, new technologies, down to earth experimental stuff.  The garage inventors nirvana.

112 builds, ideas, articles.

BioFuels  
jetta conversion to veggie oil

Conversion of VW Jetta Diesel to Burn Vegetable Oil

The Biofuels Section has design and build information on veggie oil, bio diesel, making and using ethanol, methane generators, wood gas vehicles, masonry heaters, rocket stoves, wood water heating, and heat from compost. 

Solar Projects for Kids 
Solargraphy Picture

Doing Solargraphy

Forty great projects for kids/students to have fun learning about solar and renewable energy -- wind turbines, PV boats, Solargraphy, heat transfer, solar mechanics, ...
Solar for Kids...

Concentrating Solar Collectors 
George's parabolic solar collector

George's DIY Parabolic Concentrating Collectors

The Concentrating Solar section has build and design information on various types of concentrating solar collectors including some that make good DIY projects.

Micro Hydro
 

An Undershot Water Wheel for Electricity Generation

 

The Micro-Hydro Section provides design guides and a number of DIY builds ranging from a few watts to multiple kilowatts.  31 projects, builds and guides.

Frugal Solar Projects 

Using bubble wrap to reduce window heat loss -- effective and cheap

A collection of solar and conservation projects that cost much less than you think they would -- several that cost nothing!

Solar Wood Kilns 

A Collection of plans and design information for solar powered wood drying kilns.

Solar Water Pumping 

Solar and wind powered water pumping

All sorts of information on Solar and Wind Water Pumping.

Solar Engines 
A small collection of Solar Powered Engines
Sunspaces and Greenhouses 
Doug's solar greenhouse 

Doug's Solar Greenhouse and Sunspace

The Solar Sunspace and Greenhouse section has much design and build information for solar space heating sunspaces and for solar greenhouses.   90 projects, plans, ideas.

Solar Vehicles  
Elec-

Restoring an ElecTrak and Using It for Backup Solar Electric Power

The Solar Vehicles section has information on EV conversions, efficient cars, latest developments in transport, solar tractors and mowers, ... all DIY oriented.

Solar (and efficient) Lighting 

Giving LED Lighting a Try in Our House

The Solar and Efficient Lighting Section has information and projects on how to design solar lighting and on LED and CFL lighting.  23 builds, guides, articles.

Interesting Odd Energy/Solar Stuff 

The Solar Heated Ice Fishing Shack

A collection of very interesting, off the beaten path, but often quite practical projects and ideas. 
New Projects -- and renewable energy news

Updated July 22, 2014

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- Our small, simple, efficient camper van conversion project...

- Simple DIY wind turbine designs using only hand tools...

- Solar DIY RV evaporative cooler...

- Very good solar food dryer design and plans...

- Interesting projects from George's blog...

- A large thermosyphon solar air heating collector for a shop...

- Another DIY blower door infiltration tester...

- Two simple DIY build in a bucket coolers...

- Updates to the Fuel Compare calculator...

- Smoke for flow visulization in solar collectors...

- The simplest solar water heater...

- Large DIY water heating system that uses commercial collectors...

- CO2 emissions for EV's vs gasoline powered vehicles in the US...

- A great solar/sustainable open house event in Lethbridge...

- Large DIY solar water heating system using commercial collectors...

-Very good presentation on hydronic heating systems for energy efficient homes...

-FSEC paper on attic temperatures for various roof constructions...

-DIY white coating a black tar roof for cooling...

-Road trip mpg for 2010 Prius trip to SW...

-A very easy to build portable solar generator for emergencies....

-Detailed instructions on making collector fins from recycled printer's plates...

-Construction manual for a thermosyphon solar water heater for warm climates...

-Biomeiler - detials on a project that extracts heat from large compost piles -- up to 24 months of heat production...

-Sources of material of aluminum collector fins including one free source...

-Added some new material on PEX properties (bend rad, temps, pres drop...)...

- A DIY gray water heat exchanger to capture energy from shower drain...

- An efficient solar home in upstate NYwith a long track record...

- Solar greenhouse stores excess daytime heat via water to air heat exchanger...

- Alex Wilson on Heat Pump Water Heaters in the winter...

- Simple and efficient space cooling scheme from AU that uses water cooled by radiation to the night sky...

- A very simple bucket at a time solar batch water heater....

- Update on Chad's AC evaporative cooling of condenser coil project...

- Update on Chad's pivoting solar heating collector project...

- A simple solar water heater for warm climate...

- Five year update on Gordon's deep energy retrofit...

- 2013 update on the Half Program...

- A highly sustainable and solar heated loo -- very nice....

-Mounting large insulated glass glazing units in a sunspace...

-A DIY installation of a Ground Source Heat Pump AND 5 KW PV array-- no heat bills and low emissions...

-Very interesting video tour of sandbed seasonal storage solar home in Michigan...

-Air duct temperature drop calculator...

-Alan Rushforth on building large cylindrical solar heat storage tanks...

-The Dumont super insulated Saskatchewan -- simple technology with great efficiency...

-Adding a backup heating system to the $2K Solar Space and Water Heating System...

-The passive solar bird bath is back...

-A new section of backdraft dampers for solar air heating collectors-- several DIY and commercial designs...

-A couple new entries on the micro hydro page...

-Buried and encapsulated HVAC ducts in the attic...

-DIY solar lighting for dim parts of the house during the day...

-A little freeze problem on the Solar Shed (see the Dec 9, 2013 update)...

-PV powered pool pump...

-New section on efficiently powering pool pumps...

-Our Home Power article on Low Thermal Mass Sunspaces...

-Working on a good over window solar collector design...

-Changing to more efficient DVR saves 310 KWH and 500 lbs of CO2 emissions per year...

-Reading your gas meter...

-Several more schemes for freeze protecting stock watering systems...

-A very nicely done solar space heating system in VA modeled after our $2K system...

-Another fascinating passively heated and cooled house in Colorado using some very unique design features...

-Fascinating passively cooled home in the tropics...

-A simple DIY solar firewood dryer...

-A good design guide for Masonry Heaters...

-Good Chuck Marken article on troubleshooting solar hot water systems...

-Update on my treated wood PV mounts ...

-Good article on insulating basement walls...

-Some small updates to the Solar Stock Heated Tank -- this is a good time of year to get going on building yours...

-Maintaining prime for a pump located above the drain back tank...

- A grid tie inverter that provides backup power when the grid is dow without batteries...

-A homemade thermal imaging camera for cheap...

-A highly reflective, inexpensive white roof coating for cooling...

-A simple and portable solar cooker...

-Side by Side test of two popular DIY solar air heating collectors: Pop Cans vs Screen...

-SolarDan tests some new CPVC water heating solar collector designs...

-Tom Gocze's Hot and Cold TV has come to Youtube. This is a great show for DIY energy nuts (and non-nuts). Several past shows available and more being added...

-Nick Pine has a new blog with articles of interest to people designing and building renewable energy projects. Ask the Renewable Engineer...

- Test of various reflective surfaces in front of a vertical collector to improve performance...

- An innovative solar water cooker.....

-Making DYE Solar Cells -- a guide to making dye solar sells as an educational project...

- A simple way to make PV panel mounting racks....

-New section on reflectors to improved solar collector (or window) performance: design, performance, testing, examples...

-A Design Challenge: Help ClubRust with solar heating low income homes ...

- An advanced model solar airplane project...

- Alliance for Green Heat -- good source of information on efficiency and emissions for wood burners...

- Closthesline Tiny Home -- A very nice tiny home design with lots of design, build, and live in information...

- A simple outdoor solar shower... More outdoor solar showers...

- A well house with passive solar freeze protection...

Web Walk  - May 18, 2013

- Simple solar pumping solution for spring to greenhouse that is 800 ft away and 50 ft above...

- Unique new solar water heater design - potential for low cost and high solar fraction...

- David's way north in the UK very nicely done solar water heating system -- a really nice build...

- Elektra One Solar -- solar airplane you can buy with 1000 km range...

- 2 year report on Gordon's unique Khanh solar water heating collector...

- Testing the transmittance of some common solar collector glazing materials...

- Update on Rain Water Collection System -- a freeze problem...

- A nice DIY microinverter PV system in WV...

- A further update on the DIY Off The Shelf Solar Water heating system -- testing with sealed glazing...

- ElectricForum -- a good electric car and electric car conversions site...

- An update on the DIY Off The Shelf Solar Water heating system -- building and testing a glazed pool heating collector...

- The ASES Solar Citizen program...

- A full function homemade blower door you can build for $30...

- An energy conserving shower improvement that is easy to retrofit...

- A simple and effective thermal shade design for windows...

- Dryer heat recovery design challenge....

- Skyview iPhone app can be used for solar site surveys...

- Very nice south wall integrated solar space heating system...

- A major new section on Low Thermal Mass Sunspaces -- exceptional space heating plus multi use space...

- A very simple solar hot water kit for warm climates at $1K...

- A $125 per sqft Net-Zero-Energy home...

- A DESIGN CHALLENGE for pop can and downspout collector builders...

- Very interesting solar space heating system uses plastic collectors...

- Added another good set of plans for an HRV ...

- Plans for a DIY HRV design using Coroplast sheets...

- New section on HRV's...

 

- Past New Content Entries...


Comments, Questions, Ideas? ...

If you have any suggestions to make the site better, have an energy related idea, or have a project you have done or seen elsewhere -- lets hear about it...

The Half Program

The Half Program - 23 Projects We Used to Cut Our Energy Use in Half

The Half Program is a systematic way to choose the solar and conservation projects that will give you the most bang for the buck.   Its amazing what can be accomplished and how good the return is when you choose projects carefully.
Its the most important thing on this site.