Over the past years, there has been a huge growth in the solar energy research, development and progress, due to being a renewable, economical and non-polluting energy source. In this research, different design and placement of turbulators inside a cost-effective tube-type solar air heater (TSAH) has been analyzed to upgrade thermal performance. Both experimental and CFD analysis have been performed in order to survey the performance of solar heating systems. Numerical method has been done by utilizing Fluent program in order to simulate real models and also verified with experimental results. It is proposed to improve the thermal efficiency of TSAH by integrating turbulators in different modifications. According to the experimental outcomes maximum instantaneous heater efficiency was reached to 72.41%. Also, experimental and numerical average temperature difference values in TSAHs varied in the range of 9.16-14.54 degrees C and 9.50-14.95 degrees C, respectively. The experimental and numerical simulation results exhibited successful design of this simple and inexpensive alternative hot air generation system. Manufactured simple-structured TSAHs in the present work have acceptable thermal performance in comparison to more complex solar heaters in the literature. This type of solar heater could be used in different applications such as; drying, greenhouse heating, space heating and air preheating. (C) 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.