Passive Solar Heating

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Updated on Mar 26, 2014

Grade Level: 4th - 6th; Type: Physical Science

Students will examine how passive solar heating works by measuring the temperature within a parked car on a sunny day.From this experiment students can think of ways to use passive solar heating as an alternative, or green, energy source.

  • What happens to the temperature within a parked car compared to the outside temperature on a sunny day?
  • How do greenhouses work?

The sun’s energy has been considered an “alternative” energy source. However, it has been around as long as the earth.The sun was the first energy source, providing heat and light. In the 19th century scientists discovered the ability to harness the sun’s energy to generate electricity so the concept of solar power has been around for over a hundred years. By using the sun’s energy we can reduce carbon emissions and preserve our natural resources. We can use the sun in simple ways to reduce energy consumption from fossil fuels. Instead of drying your clothes in a dryer hang them up to dry in the sun. In this experiment students will observe passive solar heating in action by measuring temperatures within a car parked under various conditions.

  • Automobile
  • Thermometer (2)

  1. Before the sun rises, on a sunny day, have your parents park their car in a sunny area.
  2. Place a thermometer in side the car and one outside, in the sunlight.
  3. Take the outside temperature and the inside temperature of the car in the morning.
  4. Take the outside temperature and the inside temperature of the car once the sun is out, around 10am.
  5. Take the outside temperature and the inside temperature of the car once the sun is at its peak, around 2pm.
  6. Take the outside temperature and the inside temperature of the car once the sun starts to set.
  7. On the next day have your parents park their car in a shaded area and repeat steps 2-8.
  8. Record the temperatures in a chart.
  9. What happens to the temperature in the car throughout the day in the sun?
  10. What happens to the temperature in the car when parked in a shaded area?
  11. What affect do the windows of the car have on the temperature?
  12. How do the windows heat the interior of the car?
  13. How can we use passive solar energy as an alternative energy source?

Temperature

Ouside

Inside

Parked in the sunshine

6am

10am

2pm

Parked in the shade

6am

10am

2pm

Terms/Concepts: Solar power; Passive solar heating; Solarium; Greenhouse; Photovoltaic

References:

Melissa Bautista is a research scientist, freelance editor, and writer, with a focus in Neuroscience. She believes in establishing solid foundations in education through experience, creativity, and collaboration. She is fascinated by pedagogy and the concept of learning through living.

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