DIY pop can solar air heaters - homemade solar heat!

We love this concept. I mean we really love it. A DIY solar air heater like this is easy to build and can be done very cheaply, or for free if you are somewhat resourceful.

DIY pop can solar air heater

The premise:

Cut holes in the bottoms of old pop cans, glue them end to end, paint them black, blow air through them and voila! Homemade, virtually free solar heat courtesy of some pop cans, scrap wood and a cheap fan.

There is a downside of course, namely consistency of heat flow. A device such as this may not be reliable enough as the primary heat source of your house, but it can be a great heat supplement that would work well for outbuildings.

DIY pop can solar air heater
DIY pop can solar air heater ©

How much heat your solar air heater kicks out has everything to do with cloud coverage and time of day. This unpredictability means that there will be times when little or no heat is produced, and other times when you may need to shut it off to avoid overheating.

Something like this can be a great way to warm a garage, backyard satellite office or green house. If you are able to capture and store some of the heat with thermal mass, you can help balance temperatures and get more for your efforts. For example, in a greenhouse you could pretty easily route warm air through the soil, or a pile of bricks or sand. This will help slow the rise of temperatures and prevent overheating, while also storing some of the heat that will later be released after the sun goes down.

There are many ways to build something like this, some more complicated than others. Go with whatever design speaks to you, but the general steps are as follows:

  • Cut holes in the bottoms of pop cans, use a heat-resistant adhesive to glue them together end to end, then paint them black.
  • Build a shallow box with an air chamber at the bottom where air can rise up through the bottoms of the cans.
  • Cover the box with a sheet of clear rigid plastic or an old window.
  • Build a chamber at the top for air to collect and be ducted to supply heat.
  • Install a fan to circulate the air (at the top is probably best, it's can be easier for a small fan to draw air than push it).

Check out the DIY video below to give you a better idea of how easy they can be to build given the bounty of heat that they will provide.




That video is one of the easier builds we've seen, intended to further entice you into this concept with its simplicity. We also like that the fan in this design is powered by its own solar panel. We recommending picking one whose complexity in design falls within your budget, abilities and attention span.

As always, share your knowledge, experience and questions in the comments below and please let us know if you make some ground breaking advances in design, we'd love to feature it!