It is usually most economical to design an active system to provide 40 to 80 percent of the home’s heating needs. Systems providing less than 40 percent of the heat needed for a home are rarely cost-effective except when using solar air heater collectors that heat one or two rooms and require no heat storage.
A well-designed and insulated home that incorporates passive solar heating techniques will require a smaller and less costly heating system of any type, and may need very little supplemental heat other than solar.
The cost of an active solar heating system will vary. A simple window air heater collector can be made for a few hundred dollars. Commercial systems range from $30 to $80 per square foot of collector area, installed. Usually, the larger the system, the less it costs per unit of collector area. Commercially available collectors come with warranties of 10 years or more, and should easily last decades longer.
Heating your home with an active solar energy system can significantly reduce your fuel bills in the winter. A solar heating system will also reduce the amount of air pollution and greenhouse gases.