Solar DIY Analysis Tools and Data

This page is being phased out -- here is a more complete (and orderly?) list of solar tools and references.

Note: Also check the References->Solar Suppliers page for data and tools on supplier sites.

General Engineering Reference Sites
The Engineering Tool Box


A wide ranging engineering reference site.  Material properties, Fluid Mechanics, Piping, HVAC calcs, ...
Software Tool Lists
Interactive Evaluation Tools for Small Wind, hydro, water heating, space heating, pool heating...

List of Interactive Evaluation Tools for renewable energy sources.  From the EERE DOE site.
EERE Energy Software Tools Directory

DOE EERE site list of software tools for a wide renewable energy applications.  Some free.
Solar Position and Radiation Tools
Sun Charts

A Sun Chart for your area is a must have tool to determine how much of the time sun will shine on your collectors.  See site survey for how it works.
NREL Solar Radiation and Climatic Data

Average weather conditions and solar radiation of collectors at various orientations for many US cities.  Based on 30 year weather records.  Try downloading the pdf version for your state.
Surface meteorology and Solar Energy



Solar radiation and solar geometry data from derived from satellite observations.  Provides data for anywhere in the world.
Sustainable By Design Solar Tools

Some very well done (and free) tools for designing overhangs, determining sun position, ...

The overhang design tool is very good.

Radiation On Collector


A tool that provides radiation levels on a flat plate collector for sunny days as a function of collector location (lat and long) and orientation.   Use to answer questions like what if I can't aim my collector due south?
Windows and Glass
Efficient Windows

Good information on choosing windows for your exposure, climate, aims...  Try the "Window Selection Tool". Good write up on spectrally selective glazing.
Pilkington Glass


Good technical data on a wide variety of glasses and some useful calculators.
Home Heat Loss/Gain and Passive Solar Home Design Software


Additional documentation:


This is very easy to use, yet very capable simulation software for estimating the energy/thermal performance of a passive solar or conventional home.  Weather files for over 500 worldwide locations. While it initially appears almost too simple, by using the "advanced tab" it can handle a wide variety of situations.  It uses a one hour simulation time step, and weather files that cover a full year of typical weather.  It has been carefully validated.  It is limited to 1 zone, and does not handle sunspaces.  It is a free download.

For precompiled Resfen data on many window types for many locations, use the "Window Selection" tool here:


Resfen allows detailed analysis of window choices for a wide variety of windows.  It is a full hourly simulation, and offers weather files for many locations.  Easy to use.




ENERGY-10 is a PC-based design tool that helps building designers quickly identify the most cost-effective, energy-saving measures for small commercial and residential buildings.  It supports rapid comparisons of energy saving strategies.  Limited to 2 zones.

Cost is $300, or $60 for students -- just think how much energy would be saved if this program was made free!

Infiltration Heat Loss


Estimating the saving for reducing infiltration heat loss.
Energy Savings Calculators
Infinite Power


A good calculator for calculating the cost saving for installing a solar hot water heater.
Solar Collector Design
CoDePro -- Flat Plate Collector Design Program

Program develops the efficiency curve given inputs on the collector glazing, absorber, insulation etc.
Piping and Plumbing Analysis and Properties
Endot Industries

Specifications, material properties, application data, pressure loss tables, ... for various flavors of Polyethylene  pipe.
Pipe Loss Calculator

Calculates pressure losses, velocity, ... for water or water/glycol flow in pipes.

Search for "The Copper Tube Handbook" -- 7mb of more than you will ever need to know about copper tubing/pipe size,  geometry, ratings, ...
Boedeker Plastics

Plastics properties and selection guides

Material properties and selection information for a wide variety of plastics.
Vanguard Piping Systems


Lots of data on PEX tubing, including some test results.


Heat Exchangers
U in Heat Exchangers

Download pdf (287K)

Thermal conductivity coefficient for various heat exchange circumstances
DTL Tube and Shell Heat Exchanger Sizing Guide

Sizing guide for tube and shell heat exchangers for DTL
Pumps and Solar Pumping

 A Graphic Guide to Solar Water Pumping

Windy Dankoff


Home Power Magazine article, issue 46

Very good article on designing and selecting the components for a solar electric water pumping system.  Covers a wide variety of pumping head requirements, flow requirements, and system types.

Dankoff Pumps Solar Pumps for Space Heating Guide


Information on pumps used for space heating fluid circulators.
Solar Pump Selection Guide

PV powered pump sizing information.
Duct Sizing Calculator

Duct sizing calculator -- calculates pressure losses for various types of ducts
Free Calc -- a variety of HVAC calculators


Duct losses, fluid flow, heat exchangers, ...
Pipe flow and Duct Flow Calculators

Mike Rocchetti


Calculators for pressure loss in pipes and ducts, steam tables, and a Psychrometric Calculator
Optimum Refrigeration Temperatures for Foods

Chart compiled by Glacier Bay Inc provides ideal short and long term storage temperatures for various foods.
Wire Current Tables

Wire Table


Maximum allowable current in wires as a function of insulation type.


Maximum number of conductors in conduit as a function of wire gauge and conduit size.

Another wire table for AWG that includes resistance per 100 ft and much more.

Electric Motor Current Draw


Approximate motor current draw at full load.
Online Units Conversion

Online calculator to convert units (eg metric to English)
Heat Transfer Analysis Methods
The Thermal Wizard -- A variety of heat loss calculators


Heat loss calculators for a variety of gas and liquid flow conditions.
Watlow - Reference Engineering Data

Data on heat loss from surfaces, material properties, ...
Materials Specs
Boedeker Plastics

Plastics properties and selection guides

Material properties and selection information for a wide variety of plastics.
Specs for a wide variety of plastics


Specifications for a wide variety of plastics: Acrylic, Nylon, PVC, Polycarbonate, HDPE, ...
Material Specs on High Temperature Plastics


Material specs on some high temperature plastics, including PTFE (Teflon).
Emissivity of many materials


Emissivity of many materials (paints, metals, plastics, ...)
Pollution and Emissions Calculators
Infinite Power


Calculators to estimate carbon dioxide and other pollutants generated by activities like driving, using electricity etc.   Lot of other good renewable energy information on this site.
Energy Conversion
Heat Content of Common Fuels

Fuel BTU

Heat content in BTU for common fuels
Fuel Energy Equivalence Calculator

SHEC labs

Compare fuels for energy content.
Heating System Efficiency

Furnace Efic

Efficiency for various types of heating systems and fuels.
Books and Publications

Technical reference books that I have used and like, or have been highly recommended by others.  Sites with an extensive library of solar publications.

Solar Thermal Engineering

Peter Lunde

Covers a wide selection of topics, well written, practical, manageable math.

1980, 600 pages  Out of print, but available used at and the like.

The Passive Solar Energy Book -- Expanded Professional Edition

Edward Mazria

Covers all the basics, very readable, very little math.

1979, 700 pages Out of print, but available used at and the like.

Solar Engineering of Thermal Processes, 2nd Edition

John Duffie and William Beckman

Very complete -- widest coverage of the books listed here. 

1991, 900 pages

CANMET Energy Technology Center -- Buildings Group -- Publications

Outstanding list of publications on solar and renewable energy.  Canada government site.
Solar Air Heating Systems

Steve Kornher with Andy Zaugg

Excerpts from this book


This is a fine book on designing and building solar air collectors and solar air heating systems of many types.  Very good on design, very good on construction.  Covers both active and passive air collectors.  The book is out of print, but available at used  books for less than $10 -- highly recommended.

The link provides extensive excerpts from the book courtesy of Steve and Andy -- Thanks!!

Pumps and Turbines

Arthur Williams

Nice combination of understandable physics and sensible economics.

2003 ITDG Publishing

Design: Solar Heating Of Buildings and Domestic Hot Water

MIL-HNBK 1003/13A

(1.6mb pdf)

170 page mil handbook on solar heating -- starts with general descriptions, but goes on to cover solar space heating and water heating in some depth -- and its free.
Active Solar Collectors and Their Application

Ari Rabl

A great engineering reference on solar collectors of almost all types.