How to Use Car Radiators for Solar Water Heating Collectors

Written by william kinsey
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Solar water heating collectors are used to absorb the heat from sunlight and transfer it to water or other mediums for heating a home or providing hot water. Radiators are used to transfer the heat contained in engine coolant to the air. They can also be used in solar applications to capture the heat from sunlight, so that the heat can be used for other applications. There are only a few modifications that must be made to adapt a car radiator for this task.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Box
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Radiator
  • Insulated glass
  • Insulation
  • Radiator hose
  • Tank
  • Black spray paint

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  1. 1

    Spray paint the radiator black because this colour adsorbs more heat energy than other colours.

  2. 2

    Measure the length, width, and depth of the radiator to build a box that will hold the radiator. Construct a box that is 2 inches larger than the radiator on every side. If the radiator is 26 inches long, 20 inches wide, and 3 inches deep, then the box must be 28 inches long, 22 inches wide and 5 inches deep. Do not put a top on the box. Drill two holes in the bottom of the box for the hoses, which will connect to the radiator. Secure the radiator to the box, using self-drilling screws.

  3. 3

    Place 1 inch of insulation in the bottom of the box and lay the radiator down flat inside the box. The top of the box will require an insulated sheet of glass. Insulated glass is designed to allow heat to only pass through it on way. What you want is for heat to come into the box but not out of the box.

  4. 4

    Place caulk along the top of the box and secure the insulated glass to the box. This will help the box hold heat. Also caulk around the radiator pipes, leaving the box. Connect the two pipes to a small tank and fill the tank with water or other coolant. Make sure the radiator is full. Measure the temperature of the water or coolant. Point the radiator at the sun and wait about an hour.

  5. 5

    Check the temperature of the water in the tank after an hour. The temperature of the water or coolant should have increased.

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