Family's genius hack to heat home for just $1.50 a year

A crafty homeowner fed up with mounting costs of heating his freezing home every winter has devised an incredible alternative that sets him back just $1.50 a year.

Using a method sure to strike the fancy of beer lovers, Terry Johnson and his partner Mel McMinn spent a few weekends putting together their makeshift heating panel in a bid to warm their Kaikohe home on New Zealand’s north island.

“It was one of those houses which was pleasantly cool in the summer but freezing in the winter,” Mr Johnson told Fairfax Media.

“We needed something to make it thermally efficient but didn’t have a big budget.”

The system uses 272 cans to heat up the house. Source: Frugal Kiwi
Each can is cut to form baffles that circulate the airflow. Source: Frugal Kiwi

The design works by sucking cool air from inside the house into the outdoor panel which is heated up by 272 coke and beer cans, before being blown back inside.

After friends helped pitch in with the aluminium cans, which retain heat, Mr Johnson got to work on his project, while still sitting in front of the TV.

Here are the steps he took to complete the crafty project

  • Cut the tops of each can to form baffles, then glue together in columns of 16
  • Spray paint cans matte black to absorb as much sun as possible
  • The cans were then fitted into a simple plywood box frame secured by a sheet of polycarbonate
A plywood box, which houses the cans, also has two manifolds at the top and bottom for airflow. Source: Frugal Kiwi
  • He then cut two 20cm diameter holes inside family’s home for air flow
  • Before attaching the panel, he had to cut two more holes on the outside of the house (on the eastern wall for max morning sunlight)

He said the project can be left at that point but the electrical engineer in him saw him add two small, low powered fans to suck in the cold air in to the bottom and push the hot air out the top.

(Left) The sizeable panel attached to the eastern wall of the property and (right) the two vents which suck and blow air into the house. Source: Frugal Kiwi

With all the materials, Mr Johnson said he estimates the project cost about $500 but now heat the house for as little as $1.50 every year.

Click here to see the detailed plan and his advice for anyone planning on tackling the DIY heating system.