July 2004
Sunny Future Press,
Wantagh , NY  
Copyright © John Canivan 2004
ISBN       0-9754980-1-0      $75.00 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical without the express permission of the publisher. On line support is available from www.JC-SolarHomes.com.  If you have any questions or comments about this book feel free to post them on the JC Solar Collector Forum or join the Solar Energy group or send email to canivan@optonline.net. If you find this book helpful you may also appreciate my other books:
How to Build a Solar Hot Water System, Solar Thermal Energy, Energy Independent Housing, and  MTD Solar Heating.

RECOGNITION: My appreciation extends to many people that made this manuscript possible such as Professor Dathatri, the chairperson of the Solar Energy Center at Farmingdale University, Professor Modi, the chairperson of the Mechanical Engineering department at Columbia University, NY, the authors of books found on page 156, my hard working Dad, the general contractor, my understanding mom, my AutoCAD instructor, Mel, the critic Riddick, Loretta, the best cookies baker on the block and lets not forget about the little woman who had to put up with my mood swings and grammatical incongruities during the last 18 months, my patient loving wife, Catresea.


About this book

If you’re tired of waiting for government to take serious action on issues like: air and water pollution, the energy crisis, taxes, political corruption, social harmony, and a sustainable economy and if you believe it’s possible to: do more with less, be creative and still earn a living you’ll appreciate this book. Do-It-Yourself-Solar is about getting your hands dirty with down to earth projects made from inexpensive construction materials. Buckminster Fuller believed that social problems are a result of “…wandering too far from our roots”. Energy for life comes from the sun. Farmers have always known this, but the rest of us have somehow forgotten about our sun connection. We live on a vicarious diet of plastic wrapped food supplements and spend our lives exchanging green pieces of paper. One day we’ll pick up the Endangered Species Newspaper and find Homo sapiens on the top of the list. The dumps are rapidly filling up and the ground water is becoming more toxic every day. We won’t be able to live in a world of planned obsolescence much longer. Asthma problems, due to a sensitivity of toxins in the air and water are on the rise. A 160% increase in asthma problems have been reported since 1984. If the trend continues, a terrorist invasion will be the least of our problems.  

 As you progress through the book the projects will become more involved and require a greater commitment. Your mastery of one chapter will prepare you for the next. You are encouraged to read the chapters in order even if you never pick up a hammer. You’ll learn to calculate the energy available from sunlight, the efficiency of applications and also the payback period. You’ll learn to use the greenhouse effect rather than suffer because of it. You’ll be shown how to build solar air heating systems, and solar water heating systems and you’ll soon understand the concepts of heat transfer, fluid mechanics, multi tank heat storage, heat extraction, radiant heating, Trombe walls, solar collectors, solar thermal roofs, and differential solar thermal engine hybrid systems. You will be introduced to Photovoltaic technology and even build a simple solar cell, but the thrust of this book will be concerned with solar thermal energy projects. A bibliography and glossary is also available. This book is about sunlight. My wish is for you to soak up all that comes your way.


I.   CONCENTRATORS                                         7


II. SOLAR AIR HEATING                                                    14

Hot Box                                                                    15

Window Box                                                             19

Trombe Wall                                                           22

Solar Greenhous                                                      27


III. SOLAR WATER HEATING                        39

Simple Batch Heater                                                  40

Thermo Siphoning Batch Heater                                  42                    

Solar Collector Types                                                 43

Serpentine Collector                                                   47

Collector Mounting                                                     72

Heat Storage 101                                                       74

Heat Storage 102                                                       75

Heat Storage 103                                                       77

Vault Construction 103                                               79

Vault Plumbing 103                                                    83

Heat Storage 104                                                       90

Heat Storage 105                                                       96

Collector Plumbing                                                    103

Solar Thermal Roof                                                   106

Energy Independence                                                 114

Radiant Heating                                                        118

Hexagonal Housing                                                   122


IV. SOLAR POWER                                            137

Photovoltaic Power                                                    138

Solar Thermal Power                                                 149


IV. GLOSSARY                                                   153


V.  BIBLIOGRAPHY                                           156


VI. AUTHORS STORY                                        159




About Mr. Sun

All my books begin with a brief discussion about the amount of energy available from sunlight so why should this book be any different. For you brave souls who have already read How to Build a Solar Hot Water System, Energy Independent Housing  or Solar Thermal Energy  this chapter may seem a bit superfluous, but you might also benefit  from the clarified concepts and the additional down to earth questions and answers.



Our five billion year old sun accounts for 99.9% of the total mass of this solar system. Most scientists are optimistic that we'll still have this nuclear reactor billions of years from now. Each second about 700,000,000 tons of hydrogen are converted to about 695,000,000 tons of helium and 5,000,000 tons of energy in the form of gamma rays. As this energy travels out toward the earth’s surface it’s absorbed and re-emitted at lower and lower temperatures so, by the time it reaches our tiny blue-green planet it is primarily in the form of visible and ultraviolet light. Even though solar energy is the largest source of energy received by the Earth, its intensity at the Earth's surface is actually very low due to the large distance between the Earth and the sun and the fact that the Earth's atmosphere absorbs and scatters some of the radiation. Even on a clear day with the sun directly overhead, the energy that reaches the Earth's surface is reduced about 30 percent by the atmosphere so the direct solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface is about 1KWH/square meter.   When the sun is near the horizon and the sky is overcast, the solar energy at ground level can be negligible. It also varies from one point to another on the earth's surface. Nevertheless, in the 21st century, the sun's energy has become an increasingly attractive source for small amounts of direct power to meet human needs.

A number of devices for collecting solar energy and converting it into electricity and heat have been developed. Nine quadrillion, that’s (9,000,000,000,000,000) kilo watts of solar energy fall on the continental United States every hour.  This is the equivalent energy available from 4.25 trillion barrels of oil. The utilization of less than .001% of this renewable resource would satisfy all our energy requirements. So there’s plenty of energy available. All we need to do is figure out a way of putting the sun to work for our mutual benefit.

Do-it-Yourself-Solar is designed to help us make a difficult transition from an oil based economy. A solar age of Energy Independence is now possible and affordable with cutting edge hybrid systems. While some oil still remains for essential petroleum products we should consider the possibilities of a sustainable economy based on sunlight.


Do-it-Yourself-Solar is a step by step guide with over 30 solar energy projects you can sink your teeth into. These projects include: Solar Concentrators, Hot Boxes, Window Boxes, Trombe Walls, Solar Greenhouses, Batch Heaters, Thermo Siphoning Systems, Solar Collector Construction, Collector Mounting, Five Heat Storage Systems, Collector Plumbing, Solar Thermal Roof Theory, Solar Thermal Roof Construction, Energy Independence, Solar Cell Theory, Cu/CuO solar cell construction and an advanced experimental solar thermal engine project.


About the Author

John Canivan is a seasoned builder and a solar thermal energy instructor for the Solar Energy Center at Farmingdale University in New York. He is also the author of How to Build a Solar Hot Water System, Energy Independent Housing, And Solar Thermal Energy and How to Build a Solar Thermal Roof. John is a hand on kind of person. His solar thermal energy projects can be built from commonly available, inexpensive construction materials.

Looks like John's oil price predictions are a little off. Guess we should enjoy low oil prices while we have them and not worry about melting ice caps... OR  we could give Exxon a run for their money while we can. Perhaps this is a good time to  save the planet and save a little do re me in the process.  

Do It Yourself Solar combines the essence of "HOW TO BUILD A SOLAR HOT WATER SYSTEM", "ENERGY INDEPENDENT HOUSING", AND "SOLAR THERMAL ENERGY" into one book. There are numerous step by step guidelines for the construction process of numerous comprehensive, well illustrated projects. Buy the way, thank you for your time. May you harvest your rightful share of sunlight.

This book is now only available as an ebook. Enjoy the video.