Purpose Over the recent years, solar energy has received outstanding attention from researchers. Solar energy applications and related large-scale projects are increasing to meet growing global energy demand as an economical, non-polluting and renewable energy source. The purpose of this study is investigating different plenum and absorber configurations of solar air heating wall (SAHW) experimentally and numerically. Design/methodology/approach In this study, various configurations of SAHW have been numerically simulated to determine the most effective design. According to the simulation results, two SAHWs with various plenum thicknesses have been fabricated and tested at different conditions. Findings Numerical simulation results indicated that parallel-flow SAHWs exhibited better performance in comparison with other placements of absorber plate. Regarding to the experimentally attained results, the highest thermal efficiency was reached to 80.51%. Also, the average deviation between experimentally and numerically obtained outlet temperature is 5.5%. Originality/value Considering the obtained results in the present study, designed SAHW has admissible efficiency to be used in various industrial and residential applications such as; air preheating, space heating and drying.