Meet your Attic: A Collector of Energy

As I write this the US National Snow and Ice Data Center is reporting that Arctic sea ice has reached a record low; and there’s still another month to go in the annual melt-down period.

As I write this the US National Snow and Ice Data Center is reporting that Arctic sea ice has reached a record low; and there’s still another month to go in the annual melt-down period.

True, an eventual ice-free Arctic will allow drilling rigs to easily explore for oil at the top of the world. And the loss of the ice cap won’t cause the oceans to rise. Yet much of what's considered the ice cap is on dry land - Greenland. If temperatures are high enough to melt sea ice, they’re certainly high enough to melt glacial ice in the neighborhood. A melted Greenland does mean higher ocean levels.

Drilling for oil at the North Pole may get easy. Moving Galveston, Texas (elevation 6 feet) to higher ground won’t.

I think we need to step up the pace of innovation and commercialization of low carbon, energy technologies.

For example, consider not the top of the world, but the top of your world, the attic in your house. It’s not just a hot, dusty, cobweb riddled place where you keep old family photo albums and out of date luggage. Your attic may be a basis for a heating, cooling and ventilation system for your whole house. Your attic isn’t just a place where old clothes are stored. It’s a place where energy is collected.


From underneath - from inside your house - warmth that isn’t held back by insulation rises into your attic and is possibly expelled by passive ventilation or a fan.

From the top side - the roof - the Sun beating down, even in the dead of winter, will warm the attic.

Your attic is a collector of heat from inside and outside your home and with relatively simple technology this energy can be put to work.

At a fairly basic level the heat in your attic can be transferred to water, warming it a bit and cutting down on the energy costs of heating it by conventional means.

Solar Attic makes a fairly simple device designed to use in hot attic temperatures for swimming pool heating. It’s basically a fan assisted heat exchanger with some plumbing bits and controls. With a continual flow of water it will help heat a pool at less cost, and less carbon, than using traditional means such as natural gas.

"The heat in the attic can reach above 150 degrees, which makes it a great solar collector. We are putting that renewable energy to use. I see a huge potential for this pool heater and other products like it. We need to get the word out," said Frank Rygiel of Greenwise Solutions in Wesley Chapel, Florida

At a more sophisticated level NuTech Renewables, a renewable energy technology company in Northern Ireland, offers systems that are installed in the attic space that will help heat, cool and ventilate a house with free solar heat and reclaimed heat from inside the house.

The Sunwarm system uses solar thermal energy from collectors on the roof and combines it with recovered heat from inside the house. The system can provide heated air or both heated air and hot water that can be tied into the domestic water system or a boiler, preferably a pellet fueled one. A hot attic environment helps the efficiency of the system. Sunwarm will also expel stale air from the houseaand bring cool air in, thus ventilate it.

In winter the system will help heat the house and preheat water for space heating. In the summer the system can help cool the house by allowing fresh air in and removing stale warm air.

Key to the heat recovery operation of the system is the Mitsubishi Lossnay Heat Recovery ventilation unit. Hot stale air in the house is collected through ductwork. Its heat energy is recovered in the Lossnay unit and combined with additional heat from the solar collector on the roof. Then fresh air from the outside is added and ducted back to heat and ventilate the house.

Mark Forkin of NuTech Renewables believes that the recently amended building regulations for the UK, requiring a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions for new homes has demonstrated the real challenges for Renewable Energy companies. "The days of ad hoc bolt-on solutions are over, and firms must now look at integrating renewable technology into the building, something that can only be achieved by investing time and money into technological design and innovation,” he said.

Innovation is exactly what we need.


Solar Attic

Greenwise Solutions

NuTech Renewables

US National Snow and Ice Data Center