Tools & Materials List

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The following tools and materials are what I personally suggest for a successful build.

All materials listed should be available either at your local big box home store such as Home Depot/Menards/Lowe's or through the Amazon links provided.


DIY-SOLAR-HEATER.COM participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. There is no extra cost to you for ordering your materials from these links and I sure appreciate it when you do.


You may need to special-order some materials depending on your local store’s inventory. Get as many of your materials and tools ordered at once to save money and time by avoiding driving back and forth and delaying your progress.


The main goal is to make this an efficient build start to finish.


Once you have all the needed materials and tools, you should be able to build your unit in one or two days.

When gathering your tools and materials at the big box stores, grab one of these lumber carts (pictured below) with the upright lumber-supporting rails and you’ll be able to get all of these items out the door in one load. Pull your car up to the store and usually you can get an employee to assist you in securing it to your vehicle.


SHIPPING WARNING!

While transporting your materials on top of a vehicle or pickup, highway winds can and will bend the metal and/or break the foam board all over the highway. Ask me how I know! Avoid this headache. The front wind-facing parts need to be super secure and well-wrapped with plastic wrap as though their life depends on it. Ratchet straps can also be tightened too much and can cause damage to your materials, so be careful. Try to sandwich the breakable foam between the polycarbonate and the roofing sheets. Plastic wrap the ends so the wind can't catch either ends of the load. Loading is an art in and unto itself!

Tools & Materials List

Pictured above are the main materials at a glance (mounting frame materials not pictured). These larger materials are best sourced at your big box building supply. All can be loaded on the roof of an SUV or into a pickup.

If transporting on your vehicle's roof, I suggest you stack 2 sheets of steel roofing first on top of a blanket, then the polycarbonate, then the foam board, and then the last sheet of steel roofing on top. Then place the steel studs and flashing pieces. Wrap the long metal pieces in saran wrap along the edges of the foam board and polycarbonate.


DO NOT CRUSH THE EDGES OF THE FOAM BOARD WITH YOUR STRAPS!


Wrapping plastic rolls (basically Seran wrap) are usually available at the store checkout area BEFORE strapping it all down with ratchet straps.


The majority of the smaller-sized materials can be ordered quickly and efficiently online for a huge time savings on this project (links below).


Note on Links: Although I test the links when I can, stores often change their links or items become unavailable. If you find a dead link, please email me right away at diysolarheaterguide@gmail.com and let me know so I can update it immediately! Thank you in advance!

At least [2] Ratchet Straps for transporting materials and for using for the build. Grab these fist so you don't end up at checkout without them.

Ok, we're going through the list now.


The first item to order (the most difficult and essential), is the 6-mm Twinwall Polycarbonate Roof Panels 4’ x 8’ (48" x 96") (pictured below). 4-mm will be fine if that's all that is available. But 6-mm is preferred.


Although I provide many Amazon links for smaller materials, the Twinwall polycarbonate roof panels listed on Amazon are higher in price due partially (I assume) to shipping only one panel to you. Also, I've had no luck locating 4' x 8' sheets at anywhere near the local store prices. Don't accidentally order a smaller size. Don't splice two pieces together as I think this would be far less strong and way less fantastic looking.


I have always had great luck finding them at a good price at Menards and they often have a mail in rebate for usually 11%.


Get on this immediately as these can be the most difficult item to find on our list. I suggest calling your nearest store and asking if it's in stock. If not, have them order it to the store.

Do not substitute with plexiglass or other material.

I promise you’ll regret that choice and besides, plexiglass offers no R value, shatters instantly when drilled through, it yellows and is more expensive even if you do find it in 4’ x 8’ (48" x 96") sheets. We want the insulating and strength properties and great look found in Twinwall polycarbonate Roof Panels.


The Polycarbonate Twinwall Roof Panels that we're using are fantastic. They're ultra-light weight and usually made for roofs and greenhouses and residential and commercial architecture. It's available in many colors. We want clear.


One side is UV-protected and it will not yellow for many years and I can attest to this. It's more like a really stiff rubber rated 200 times stronger than glass. You can drill through it without fear of it cracking, throw a baseball at it and it’s not going to crack, rather it will crush but remain intact. I love it! It’s cheaper than plexiglass anyway. We don’t even have to cut it for this project. I’ve never paid more than $61 per sheet but prices vary.


Note: In some areas, you may need to have your local store order certain items due to differences in stock. I found this may be the case with the Twinwall Polycarbonate clear panel used for the front of the unit.


If you need to substitute the 6-mm with 4-mm, I think that will not affect the performance whatsoever. I feel that the 6-mm offers more light penetration as there's fewer channel walls. But I seriously doubt there'd be any difference. 6-mm is a nice thickness for stiffness too.


[1] 6-mm 4' x 8' Clear Twinwall Polycarbonate Roof Panel

Model Number: 6mmcleartwinwall4x8 at Menards.

You may need to order this to be delivered to your local store so check local availability. Be patient if it might take a few days to gather the materials.

More Twinwall Polycarbonate Roof Panel Supplier Links:

Home Depot

Lowe's


There are more suppliers out there. If you can’t locate it, let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

This next section starts with Amazon links.

Big box store items are toward the bottom of the list.


Go through this list efficiently to start saving time right away by creating a list called "Solar Heater" in your Amazon portal.


Whether or not you think you'll purchase any or all materials through Amazon, I still suggest firstly adding each of the items you'll need to your Amazon Shopping List as you go through the Material links that follow. This immediately creates a super concise list you can refer to from your phone even while out shopping. Just an idea to save hours of time trying to remember!

Let's start with the screws: You only need only two sizes. One of these sizes you'll only need 4 screws but grab a few more just in case.

#8 and #10 Wafer head stainless sheet metal self-drilling screws. These are the only fasteners we use for the entire build. Pan head self-drilling screws work fine too, but wafer heads are lower profile and work better for some of our applications. If you can’t find wafer heads, you will be fine using pan heads. You’ll need two sizes.


DO NOT GET HEX HEADS! THESE HEADS ARE TOO TALL AND WILL NOT WORK CORRECTLY.

DO NOT GET self “tapping”! as these will not self-drill into the material.

Get self-drilling stainless with an incorporated drill bit on the end of screws. See photos.


[1] 100 pack of the #8 x 1" Stainless Steel Wafer Head Phillips Self Drilling Screws, Modified Truss Head Self Driller

[4] #10 x 1” Stainless Steel Wafer Head Self-Drilling Screws with a wider diameter. If you find the 4 corner front corner screws have stripped the steel stud frame holes, simply use 4 slightly wider diameter #10 screws (below) with the same pan heads. Ensure all are stainless. (You only need 4 screws in this size but grab a few more just in case)


An industry standard solution to prevent dust and dirt from penetrating inside of the ribs/flutes/channels, the exposed top end of the panel must always be sealed first with the solid aluminum tape and then vent tape at the bottom of the panel. Tape off the top and bottom immediately when you get it on site if the factory protective wrap is missing or damaged, as it's so easy to get debris inside the panels and it's difficult to get out! Don't use duct tape! It will become a gooey mess!

[1] roll Aluminum Tape for sealing the TOP end of the Polycarbonate for keeping the inner "flutes/channels/chambers" of the polycarbonate panels free of debris.

Also used for taping the fan to the ductwork, making your window inserts, sealing up other windows, etc.

Vent tape for sealing BOTTOM of Polycarbonate I couldn’t locate this on Amazon but it’s on EplastUSA.

[4] tubes High Temperature 100% Silicone Caulk

[2] Ideal-Air GL56736456 736456 Collar Air Tight, 4" ducting-Components, 4 Inch, Silver

Note: This style differs from the video and Guide. It includes the flat flange on the interior end which to screw through. This saves you a step from needing to cut and bend the interior side ends. If you want to get the version from the video/guide, that's great too. Do not get shorter lengths as these need to extend beyond the back of the unit to connect your air tubes! These may be available in longer versions and that’s fine. Choose for your application and how much you desire to extrude from the back of the unit. Make sure they’re 4” in diameter.

The video shows me cutting tabs on the inlet and outlet tubes to screw into, but with this style, you don't need to cut tabs.

[2] AC Infinity 4" Ducting Take-Off Collar, Galvanized Steel Inlet Flange Starter Collar for 4” Ducting with Dryers and Range Hoods


[2] Duct Collar Air Tight -for Connecting Flex Ducting (4'' Inch)

to finish the two protruding (inlet and outlet) ducts from the back of the unit.

[2] 4" hose clamps for heater-to-house section. 2 more will come with your 25' duct tubing for house-to-heater section that you'll see further down the list... (4 total)

[4] Cans Spray Paint High Temp-Matte Black engine or grill type

DO NOT SPRAY PAINT WITHOUT A RESPIRATOR!

Note: The painted side is sealed off from the inner plenum where the air flows through. This keeps the air free from paint off-gassing.

48’ of window seal rubber or silicone gasket. Get the most compressible variety.

There are many manufacturers of this type of material and can easily be found.

Menards

Home Depot

Purify the air as it is heated inside the duct tube with a UV-C Bulb (Optional)

[3] ClarkDietrich ProSTUD 25 3-5/8 in. x 8 ft. 25-Gauge EQ Galvanized Steel Wall Framing Stud 1-1/2” x 3-5/8” x 8’ Studs

Try to pick the kind that doesn’t have knock out holes at the 4’ center mark (4 foot mark).

[6] 1½” x 3” x 10’ lengths D-Style Roof Edge (Black, but can be any color you wish to match house trim) For exterior flashing of solar heater. Try to keep scratch free!


You must get 4 of these pieces at 10’ because you’ll be bending these beyond their 8’ lengths.

[1] The sixth piece, can be 1½” x 3” x 8’ Style D Roof Edge of the same color as above.

If an 8’ piece is unavailable, just get all [6] at 10’.


Note: Do not buy any other styles or shapes, of which there are many. This is the style we need. Ours does NOT have a “rippled” or crumpled edge, rather a smooth edge (see photos below).


I have only used steel. Aluminum is also available. I do not know if aluminum would perform as well. I do know that the powder coating or porcelain enamel coating on the steel is able to be bent without it cracking. So if going with aluminum, you’ll need to draw your own conclusion. I prefer steel.



[2] 10' lengths Galvanized Drip Edge for your interior baffles.

This is the same shape and dimensions as the above porcelain enamel coated pieces.

If galvanized is not available, you can use the same porcelain coated pieces used for the exterior flashing. Either works great.

[3] Sheets Sheet metal roofing. 3’ x 8’ ProRib Panel galvanized, 36" nominal coverage, 9" on center rib spacing. I used the green coated for viewer clarity in this manual/video.

Also mentioned in the guide, remember you can also purchase a sheet in matte black for the outer sun-capturing surface instead of needing to paint those 3 cut pieces black.

Home Depot’s listing

Menards’ Listing

[2] Sheets Foam Board (Note: Do not get the squishy type foam board that bends easily. You want the stiff hard board that would crack if bent. Also keep in mind if transporting on the roof of a car and not sufficiently-secured toward the front end, the wind will easily crack it. Ask me how I know! )


Johns Manville R-4.4 Foil Faced Polyiso Foam Board Insulation 3/4" x 4' x 8'

Model Number: W-N5075 Menards® SKU: 1631203

The Fan & Automatic Controller

Our hand made solar monster is going to rev to life with the help of a very good brain!


Together, the AC Infinity S6 Fan and AC Infinity Controller 67 (links below) bring our awesome hand made solar air heater to the next level by automatically regulating airflow based on the interior temperature of the heater. The fan starts blowing at your programmed lowest base comfort temperature and increases speed as temperature inside the unit rises. The fan stops once temperature falls below your programmed base temperature.



For this setup you will need to order both the

AC Infinity CLOUDLINE S6 Fan and specifically the AC Infinity Fan Controller 67 (with accompanying Bluetooth App) I even found a wifi workaround! so you can run this from your phone from anywhere) Go to this video minute 11:07.

Order yours asap as these go out of stock.

Do not purchase inline ducts with an integrated fan, as high temps will damage the fan motor. Pushing the air with the AC Infinity CLOUDLINE S6 Fan pictured above is the best way to automate your system.

AC Infinity 4" Backdraft Damper, One-Way Airflow Ducting Insert with Spring-Loaded Folding Blades for 4” Ducting

[1] AC Infinity Flexible 4-Inch Aluminum Ducting, Heavy-Duty Four-Layer Protection, 25-Feet Long for Heating Cooling Ventilation and Exhaust Comes with hose clamps, you'll need 4 total hose clamps (2 needed for unit-to-house duct section) so order 2 more here or from above list.

Watch the video.

AC Infinity Wall Mount Duct Shutter, 4-inch for the interior of your living space. This is easily incorporated into a window unit you can quickly fabricate for your window.

Here are two styles...

AC Infinity Wall-Mount Duct Grille Vent for 4-Inch Ducting, for Heating Cooling Ventilation and Exhaust

You'll need one 6" to 4" Reducer between the 6" Fan outlet and backflow preventer and 4" flexible duct running cool air to the unit.

Mounting Materials

For securely mounting your solar furnace in place, you will need to determine where and in what manner you will secure it against high winds. Get assistance if needed to determine whether your setup is sufficient. Obviously, high winds can damage even the best systems and all we can do is our best. Our system is only as strong as its weakest point.

I suggest using Unistrut if you feel you're in a very high wind area.

Or,

Slotted Steel Angle can be used as we did and this can make for a very secure frame.


Use appropriate hardware for your own application. It is up to you to ensure that your mounting system is "bomb proof" and high winds cannot damage your system to the best of your ability.

Note: You may choose to mount directly attached to your structure, or a ground-mount method adjacent to your structure.

Unistrut (heavier duty)

Slotted Steel Angle

Mounting Frame Material Choice #1

Unistrut (Extra heavy duty) Unistrut is used for superior wind resistance. If you're in a high wind area, this may be a better choice. Below this Unistrut section, you'll find an alternate lighter slotted steel angle, Choice #2 that also works great for a mounting frame.

Square washers (if using Unistrut for your mounting frame)

L shaped brackets.

Here’s the 45 Degree angles brackets

Unistrut 1/2 inch Bolts

Unistrut spring nuts 1/2 inch

1/2 inch zinc washers

Mounting Frame Material Choice #2

For a more affordable and much easier-to-cut mounting frame material, there is also available 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" x 36" Slotted Steel Angle - 18 Gauge

Model Number: 11112 Menards ® SKU: 2279127

You can find it at Home Depot and Menards


To cut the angles to length, you can use a jigsaw with a steel cutting blade (likely the less dangerous tool) or if you're set up and experienced with working with steel, you can use your chop saw, sawzall, or my choice, an angle grinder with metal cut-off wheel. I strongly advise using a protective apron and full face shield as grinders and cut-off wheels can shatter at high speeds!

I made all my cuts with a hand-held jigsaw.

Ear protection is also a must.

For assembling the pictured mounting frame (pictured above) with this material, you'll need the following hardware:

[56] 3/8"Flat washers

[28] 3/8" split lock washers

[28] 3/8" -16 nuts

[28] Coarse Hex Bolts, 3/8-16 x 3/4, Piece-100

Bags come with approximately 70 pieces.


Note: Often, bolts must be "forced" a bit through the holes by first placing bolts heads in your socket wrench and then starting each bolt by pressing and turning with your wrench.

To anchor your frame down to the ground, you can use Ground Anchors. Remember, your soil condition plays a big part in how secure your system is grounded.

(You can also purchase 4 additional slotted steel angles or Unistrut tubes and drive these into the ground adjacent to the frame's legs. Then bolt the frame to these anchors). Ensure you've driven these deep enough.


Be sure to check first for underground utilities before driving anchors!

Ground Anchors with Hexagonal Head, CKE [Patent Design] Upgraded 8 Pack 15" 10mm Diameter, Heavy Duty Anchor Hook for Camping Tent, Canopies, Car Ports, Sheds, Swing Sets – Black Powder Coated. These can be driven into the ground with your screw gun.

This frame stand easily folds down for summer storage. Use the heaviest gage you can for a solid mount. This assembly was light enough for two people to easily fold down and carry to its location. Because mounting methods may vary a lot, I have not gone into great detail of this particular frame but you can see it is very simple. Each of the four points locations that connect it to the solar unit can pivot and fold down. Then it's just two bolts to attach to the lower rectangular base to achieve the correct sun angle.

T Bracket Plate (with 3 large holes (see below) for 3/8" bolts, may be drilled if you need to) bend at a 90 degree angle for mounting frame to unit. Don't get too heavy of a gage that you cannot bend.

Safety Glasses Wear them throughout the build.

Full Face Shield

Note: Only needed if you're using a high speed grinder or saw (these tools not advised or needed!) for making your steel mounting frame. I am strongly advising that you do not use high speed cut off wheels, saws, or grinders for this project as these tools are extremely dangerous, and accidents have been fatal even for professionals. Cut off wheels EXPLODE with no warning! If you are a professional with using such tools, of course follow your training and use safety gear.

I will not post the more extreme images here of injuries/fatalities from grinder wheels. You may do that on your own. I myself was severely injured from a shattered grinder wheel explosion and nearly lost my two fingers (my hand pictured below). This happened to me, a professional with literally thousands of hours using grinders! Let's stay safe and happily build this thing.

For more detailed information on grinder safety, refer to the following,

Warning, graphic content! https://www.advancedsafetytraining.com/courses/grinder-safety/lessons/grinding-wheel-hazards/2/

Safety glasses are not sufficient for using grinders and high speed cut-off wheels! Severe facial injury and fatalities have happened.

A much safer jigsaw or hacksaw can be used as there are not many cuts needed anyway (with safety glasses as always).

Angle grinders are dangerous!

BLACK+DECKER Jig Saw, Smart Select, 5.0-Amp (BDEJS600C)

Only needed if you're making a steel frame mount.


Hand Seamers: To save you from buying more tools than necessary, the hand seamers are essential for making nice corner bends in the flashing. The regular vice grip is essential for holding the steel stud frame corners in place whilst screwing the corners. You can get the locking style hand seamers and take care of two tools at once.


  • Locking type sheet metal tool can cover both these tasks.

  • Non-locking hand seamers


  • Locking Hand Seamers used for clamping the steel stud corners and bending the flashing.

Regular Vise Grip (not needed if locking hand seamers above are chosen)

Respirator: DO NOT SKIP WEARING AN APPROVED RESPIRATOR. If you can smell it, you are breathing it. This is a highly rated and affordable model.

Pliers are needed for the crimping the corners of the steel stud frame. Your vise grip or a hammer can also accomplish this task. A regular set of pliers is perfect for crimping the corners of the steel studs.

Caulking gun Best Seller at time of posting.

Sharp razor knife with an extra blade or two. Here’s mine.

Chalkline is helpful but not absolutely necessary. You can use the drip edge flashing material for your straight edge.

Tiner Shears/Snips Right or left handed (get the right one for you!). You’ll have a choice to buy one that cuts left, right and straight. It’s better to have a right or left handed for tighter curves. Choices are on Amazon.

2" Phillips drill bit Purchase the correct number for your screws.

Combination Square

Several pairs of rubber gloves for caulking/painting

Pair cut-resistant grippy gloves These have been my favorite work gloves for many years.

Corded or battery-operated drill to drive pilot holes and drive the screws. I have this one and love it for the price.

Hammer of any kind should do for tapping things into place.

[2] End caps for capping inlet and outlet ducts to ensure your heater stays free of rodents and insects when stored off season.

Tape Measure I prefer the super easy to use Lever Lock style by Stanley. Squeeze the lever to pull out the tape and simply release to hold the tape at that length. So much easier than the thumb lever styles. Other lengths are available.

Seal your windows with 3M Indoor Window Insulator Kit, Window Insulation Film for Heat and Cold

If you haven't done this before, it's easy and you'll be absolutely amazed at the amount of heat that is lost through your windows, even new high performance windows.

Apply to all your windows. Then, on a very cold day, peel back just a tiny corner of the film and feel the freezing cold air rush through. This stuff is a must if you're serious about heating or cooling. There are many sizes available for windows and patio doors.

Seal up drafty doors! This is an Amazon Best Seller.

That's the end of our Tools and Materials List!

I appreciate you purchasing through my links as this allows for me to benefit something for this project and to allow me to further improve it.

Be sure to join us over on Discord to ask questions and share your project!

Young Frankenstein photo courtesy 20th Century Fox