Seeing the light
Seeing the light

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Seeing the light

Heating a home

How do you heat your home? A quick answer might be: with central heating! You might well be right, of course, but there is another major source of heat in the home and that is the Sun. You may have noticed that some homes, or some rooms in a home, are more of a ‘sun-trap’ than others. This is because their orientation (particularly that of their windows) towards the Sun means they pick up significant quantities of solar heat on sunny days. This is called ‘solar gain’ and it has become an increasingly important factor in the design of new homes.

Activity 4 Heat from the Sun

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Can you think of any ways in which the Sun can provide heat to a home?


The Sun can provide heat in two ways: a direct way, when sunshine heats up rooms as described above, and an indirect way, when solar panels convert the Sun’s energy into electricity or hot water that can then be used to power heating systems.

Described image
Figure 3 Modern houses fitted with solar panels

At present, the majority of homes in the UK do not have solar panels installed, though that is slowly changing due to government initiatives in renewable energy (energy that comes from natural and infinite sources like the Sun, wind, and the sea without the need to burn and use up valuable fuel). At the moment most people will only experience the direct effect of the Sun in their homes.

Activity 5 Other sources of heat

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Apart from the heating system that you have in your home – solar powered or otherwise – can you think of any further sources of heat?


People give off heat, and the more of them you can fit into your home the less you will need other sources of heat, as you may have noticed at a crowded party. Household appliances are also incidental sources of heat. A refrigerator, for example, gives off some incidental heat, as do computers, television sets and other electrical appliances. Cooking also gives off heat, as do lights.


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