I'm a great believer in the marvelous, free source of energy, the Sun; solar energy, solar power, solar cooking, solar heating - all these terms just "turn me on".
I remember holding in my hands a little book named "How to live without electricity - and like it" by Anita Evanghelista. I said to myself : with such a title and with such an author's name , the book must be interesting. It was. Especially the chapter which deals with solar cooking. The author mentions there cooking a casserole. Casserole? It took me nearly an hour to boil some water for a cup of coffee. But the blame is on me - lack of practice in handling the solar cooking device and also the fact that I had to wear heavy-duty sunglasses (according to the instructions in the book) which is not exactly something I'm used to in my conventional cooking.
And then there was this other litttle book "547 ways to be fuel smart" by Roger Albright. Again, I said to myself : such a precision, not 500 and not 600 but 547 - there must be something in this book. There was. I learnt from it , among other things, that the simple, primitive device known as the clothesline on which I hang out my clothes , is in fact a solar dryer, and I happen to agree with the author "it works like a charm ..." and saves money. Wow! I was using a solar dryer and I didn't even know that!
But the book that got me daydreaming ( on the possibility of living in a solar house), was "The solar home" by Mark Freeman. On the back cover of this book, a smashing pair of sentences caught my eye. Listen to this: "Baking really good bread is difficult. Building a house is easy". I totally agree with the first sentence, but as to the second one, if it's easy to build a house how come he wrote a whole book on that?!!
(Honestly, the above three mentioned books are good books on the solar subject as opposed to a fourth book which I won't even mention its title and name of author. This book had great publicity and I was extremely dissappointed by it).
Although Israel , where I live, is a country with sunny days most of the year, the only significant use of the sun's energy is displayed in the water heaters that cover roof-tops all over the country.
I've always been fascinated by the work of these south-facing water heaters. The unit consists of a water storage tank, and two flat panels that absorb solar radiation, and heat the water in the tank. Even in winter, if there are sunny days, there'll be hot water in the storage tank, and from there, through insulated pipes, in the bathroom and kitchen taps. It saves a lot of money on the electricity bill. and a good heating system can last as much as twenty years.
There are three main models of solar heating systems (enlarge attached pictures) : a vertical tank with two panels (collectors), a vertical tank with only one( big ) panel, and the latest model: an horizontal tank with one panel. In my non-expert opinion, the oldest model is the most efficient one; besides, if one panel happens to get damaged, you can carry on for a while with the remaining one and still get hot water . The other two models evolved out of esthetic considerations.(On solar gadgets, and on my tiny collection of solar items in slideshow format - in another post).