Solar Air Heating

An award-winning range of solar air heating systems are to be publicly launched as the latest addition to the highly successful Farming the Sun initiative. The systems will be available to New England residents at wholesale prices.

Solar air heating is an innovative and simple technology. Air is heated by the sun as it passes through a triple glazed panel, and then filtered for air quality before being ducted into the living or working space.

The only power usage is a low wattage fan to drive the circulation, giving heat for the same cost as running a light bulb!

The benefits of this solar air heating system are three fold:

  1. Winter air heating with very low running costs and emissions (low wattage fan);
  2. Summer night air cooling with very low running costs and emissions (low wattage fan); and,
  3. Improved indoor air quality through introduction of filtered fresh air (medical grade filter traps harmful sub 1 micron particulates, pollens and allergens).

It is estimated that the solar air heating system can provide 30-50% of winter heating needs, largely satisfy all autumn and spring heating needs and largely eliminate the demand for summer cooling. These results can be achieved when supported by good weather sealing, insulation and conscious lifestyle/behaviour to get the best out of the system and building.

Case studies highlighting the performance can be seen here. Local demonstration sites are now being sought {more details below} to develop local case studies.

Public Launch

The public launch of the Solar Air Heating initiative will be at 11am for 11.30am start at Armidale Dumaresq Council Chambers & Committee Room, Friday 30 July 2010.

All interested members of the community are invited to attend.


Solamate is considered to be the one of the most advanced solar air heaters available today. While it will significantly provide heating (and cooling), a complete sustainable heating solution will require the above steps to be taken ~ reconsider & reduce steps ~ and in most situations supplementary heating will be required ~ such as on overcast days and cold winter nights when there is low or no solar gain.

NESS is researching other sustainable heating solutions (such as heat storage, pellet heaters, geothermal and hydronic heating systems) and working with suppliers of sustainable and/or certified firewood {more details below} to ensure that over time a range of supplementary heating systems are available that are also sustainable.

Industry Partner ~ SolaMate


NESS will partner with SolaMate to provide their solar air heating system which has won both an ABC New Inventors Episode (Judges & People's Choice ~ May 2009) and an HIA GreenSmart Product award (2009).

SolaMate's selection as the partner of choice followed extensive research of available sustainable heating technologies and a competitive expressions of interest process. {More details of this process are provided below.}

The SolaMate solar-thermal air heating system is sustainable and proven technology that can also be easily retrofitted to existing homes and buildings.

The SolaMate system is also a relatively simple retrofit, including a DIY (do it yourself) installation option, with low maintenance. {More details below}

SolaMate will also provide monitoring equipment to contribute to the measurement and evaluation and are supportive of training and industry development.

NESS has prioritised solar air heating as the next extension to Farming the Sun due to its potential to play a significant and positive role in addressing wood smoke public health issues as well as being a highly sustainable way to provide space heating and cooling.

Pricing, Initial Offer & Demonstration Sites Special Offer


The pricing^ negotiated for the SolaMate range of solar air systems is highly competitive ~ in keeping with the goal of Farming the Sun to make sustainable energy systems significantly more affordable and accessible to the New England community.

All SolaMate systems are being made available to the New England community at wholesale prices^.

These prices available as part of NESS are well below normal retail and highlight the significant community benefits from the Farming the Sun large scale solar community enterprise.

Standard systems begin from as low as $3,741.^

Further incentives are available for ten demonstration* sites (homes, workplaces or other buildings) willing to work with us to measure how well the systems work in the cool conditions of Australia's High Country.

Standard demonstration* systems begin from as low as $3,488.^

As a guide a standard installation is estimated to cost around $500.


  • Each home and building is unique. The SolaMate system is flexible, with a range of product sizes and configurations, to best match each situation and need
  • The price quoted is for a single panel system which will heat 100m2 of living space at standard ceiling height with installation OIY (organise it yourself)
  • Standard installation with a standard pitched (<30degrees) metal roof home with cavity that is relatively easy to move inside & not cramped, with standard plaster ceilings (single layer), is estimated to cost around $500
  • A power outlet is required in the roof space within 3 metres of the panel
  • Clusters of 10 systems are required, with payment in advance, before shipping & installation
  • The prices quoted above may be different to the actual installation cost which may include variations
  • A fixed price quote will be determined following full provisioning of the system to match requirements and needs

*Demonstration Site Requirements

The measurement requirements include:

  • Logging data on energy use (electricity, gas, wood);
  • Auditing energy usage (pre and post); and
  • Interviews with property owners/occupants (pre-during-post).

The selection of demonstration sites will seek to include a mix of:

  • Well insulated;
  • Wood and Non-Wood heating;
  • Passive heating & cooling;
  • Diversity of sites (residential, commercial, brick, timber, family types, etc.); and,
  • Diversity of system configurations.

The measurement and work with each demonstration will be audited by the UNE and involve:

  • Property owners/occupants will participate in interviews, provide access for monitoring & analyse energy usage;
  • SolaMate will provide monitoring equipment free-of-charge; and,
  • NESS will coordinate, undertake interviews, compile and analyse data for UNE to audit.

Register Interest, Sign Up or Find Out More

To register your interest ~ including for demonstration sites ~ sign up here or find out more contact:
Liz Gardiner, Co-Coordinator (02) 6778 7249 moc.liamtoh|1renidragzil#moc.liamtoh|1renidragzil
Adam Blakester, Convenor (02) 6775 2501, 0419 808 900 ten.yalpmgidarap|mada#ten.yalpmgidarap|mada

A fixed price quote will be determined following full provisioning of the system to match requirements and needs.

Incentives & Rebates


The SolaMate solar air heating system is incredibly energy efficient, using only a low wattage fan to drive the circulation, with all of the heat being generated free from farming the sun.

For a well sealed, insulated and managed home the system will provide a significant amount of winter heating plus largely satisfy all autumn and spring heating needs.

An added benefit is the cooling for summer, which again for a well insulated home will largely be satisfied.

The final benefit is good quality filtered air and indoor air quality.

Wood Heater Subsidy Rebate, Armidale Dumaresq Council

Armidale Dumaresq Council's Wood Heater Subsidy Rebate for 2010-2011 is $1,000 for residents of Armidale (city residential) who remove and replace their wood heater with the SolaMate solar air heating system. A limited budget and number of Rebates are available. First in first served.

For details contact:
Euan Belson Manager Environment & Health, Development Control Unit (02) 6770 3572 0412 402 250 ua.vog.wsn.eladimra|nosleBE#ua.vog.wsn.eladimra|nosleBE

Future Rebates & Incentives

NESS is also working with the Solar Thermal Air Heating & Cooling Association to obtain necessary accreditation and policy change for new government incentives (such as rebates and renewable energy certificates similar to those currently provided for solar power, wind power and solar hot water), particularly to recognise long term benefits of solar air heating for air quality, energy savings, environmental and public health improvements.


SolaMate is proudly Australian made, developed for Australian conditions and manufactured locally. At the same time though the SolaMate panels work so well in cool climates that they are being exported and installed in both the North and South Island of NZ where the panels are performing beautifully.

A range of systems are available which come in a range of sizes and can be flexibly configured to suit both retrofitting and new installations ~ homes, workplaces or other buildings.

Frequently Asked Questions




The SolaMate system is a relatively simple retrofit for existing homes, offices and commercial buildings and can be readily designed into a new home or building.

Installation can be OIY (organise it yourself) or arranged through one of our trained and preferred local installers:

  • Adam Hone 0429 160 223
  • Will Lulham 0423 374 402

NESS is also working with Jobs Australia and TAFE NSW New England Institute to provide training to create new opportunities for skilled labour with new green skills to work with fully qualified tradespeople.

To find out more or discuss this further contact:
Liz Gardiner, Co-Coordinator (02) 6778 7249 moc.liamtoh|1renidragzil#moc.liamtoh|1renidragzil
Adam Blakester, Convenor (02) 6775 2501, 0419 808 900 ten.yalpmgidarap|mada#ten.yalpmgidarap|mada

Sustainable Firewood

There are currently two suppliers of certified and/or sustainable firewood in the New England Region. Most firewood currently being sourced is of unknown quality, sustainability & legality.

The solar air heating system will require an additional source of heating to provide a boost, especially for cold and cloudy days and during the cold nights of winter.

Certified firewood is recommended to ensure the sustainability of the firewood industry, livelihoods and biodiversity.

The certified suppliers are:
PJ & CM Ducat
148 Miller Street, Armidale
02 6772 7255

Quality Firewood All Seasons
79 Invergowrie Road, Invergowrie
02 6775 2081

For details of the certification go to the The Firewood Association of Australia.

Future Launch Stages

The July '10 Launch is the first stage of the solar air heating initiative. The purpose of this first stage is four fold:

  1. make available an initial block of 30 systems at wholesale prices;
  2. begin monitoring 10 demonstration sites;
  3. establish the required partnerships, such as installation and training; and,
  4. begin taking expressions of interest for future stages.

The second stage launch will be during October 2010 to make systems available in time for summer cooling demands.

The third and full launch is planned for February 2011 to provide time for installations before the 2011 cold season heating needs.

Background & Development History

Following extensive research the SolaMate solar-thermal air heating system was chosen as the most sustainable and proven technology available ~ particularly for being able to retrofit to existing homes, workplaces and public buildings ~ to provide sustainable heating and significantly reduce the usage of existing firewood heaters.

Comprehensive research was undertaken in mid 2009 to identify various sustainable heating products (solar air, solar-hybrid, geothermal and hydronic). This involved both web-based and telephone research and interviews.

In late 2009 an Expression of Interest was circulated to ten suppliers, including the three existing New England operators. Three Expressions of Interest were returned ~ SolaMate, T3Energy (who have a solar-hybrid system under development) and EnergyCore (who have a geothermal system under development).

SolaMate presented by far the strongest offering for the New England with hundreds of systems installed to date and a multi-award winning range of products.

Work in earnest first began on the issue of solar heating back in 2001-2002 with the Solar Armidale Project led by Dr Dorothy Robinson, particularly aiming to address Armidale's serious wood smoke air health issues.

There are some 4,000 wood heaters in Armidale, where the National Advisory Limits for air quality were exceeded through 2008-2009 cold season (July, August, May & June). There are some 10,000 more residences in New England Region, the majority having one or more wood heaters.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License