Steve Baer's Beadwall Insulated Window Panels

Join Steve Baer as he writes about his experience with Zomeworks’ plans for a beadwall insulated window panel.

| September/October 1974

  • 029 insulated window panels 72 dpi
    The diagram shows a mockup of the beadwall insulated window panels. The beads are fed in through the top from the storage drums then they are needed and drained from the bottom when they aren't.

  • 029 insulated window panels 72 dpi

Dear MOTHER EARTH NEWS: I was very pleased to see the mini-article about Zomeworks' Solar Heater and Drum Wall Plans in Practical Solar Power Plans. You say such nice things about me. I hope your readers realize that there are other talents here at Zomeworks besides mine; the instructions in the aforementioned article show the skills and intelligence of Dick Henry, Jay Davis, Martha Jones, my wife Holly and the rest of our crew here in Albuquerque.

Now, the plans for the beadwall insulated window panels! I mentioned this wonderful invention of David C. Harrison's when you interviewed me last year. (See Steve Baer and Holly Baer: Dome Home Enthusiasts.) The beadwall is a kind of super curtain that allows folks to transform a clear dual-panel of glass into an opaque, well-insulated wall and back again. By a simple reversal action, it collects and retains the sun's warmth in a greenhouse or other building during cold weather and prevents heat gain on sunny days.

We've built two greenhouses utilizing the beadwall, and our test results show that it will do much of the heating and cooling required by an average office building or home. We're also pleased about the other advantages the beadwall has over the more customary means of controlling heat and light: Curtains—for instance—get dirty, fade, and are poor at keeping out the cold.

Folding doors are more effective than drapes against a chill, but they're bulky and require free space in which to swing. Both of these conventional insulators are external and open to filth and damage. The beadwall, on the other hand, is not only a better insulator but works internally and so is not subject to such problems. The new insulating wall is also superior to most doors as a weather shield since—with its unique construction—there are never any air leaks. And (this might be a minor point) I can't help but appreciate the beauty of this "curtain" as the white beads flow in and out of the clear panels.

We're now selling plans and specifications for the beadwall insulating system, seven pages of blueprinted diagrams and instructions, for $15. The plans offer as complete an explanation of the beadwall as we can provide, along with all the information anyone needs to build the system and a detail of how to erect a greenhouse incorporating the beadwall as the insulator. And if folks don't like the idea once they've given it the once-over, we'll be glad to buy the plans back at the full $15.00 purchase price.

Steve Baer
Albuquerque, N.M.

Glenn Hodgins
11/19/2018 2:16:27 PM

I've been building a beadwall system for my greenhouse in Hemmingford Quebec. I'm using leaf blowers filling 11- 4x7 ft windows with 5.5 inches of beads. I've been looking for ideas to make it work. How do I contact Steve Baer to purchase his plans? Glenn Hodgins phone/text 514-917-2433

Bill Dorsett
2/2/2009 10:20:39 PM

BeadWall 2009 I am a solar contractor in north central Kansas and recently took on the job of rehabing a passive solar greenhouse I worked on for the local free university 30 years ago. Looking at your drawings of the Syracuse House, it appears we had many of the same ideas: earth tubes, attached greenhouse and beadwall. Since none of the components were well documented or designed at the time, we used a local inventer to come up with valves, blowers etc. I still think the system has great possibilities. However, we've had problems with the shop vac motors overheating. I would really value your perspective. We used three pairs of Ametek shop vac motors, pop-riveted facing opposite directions in a short piece of metal ductwork. The three facing the same direction, work simultaneously to pressure (to blow the beads over into the wall) or the other three pull a vacuum on the tank to suck the beads out of the wall. Of course there has to be make-up air that either fills the wall or the bead tank. We've had trouble with the motors overheating I think because of two possible reasons (Oh, probably more): there is resistance through the opposing fan to air flow around the motor I think one of my original mistakes was to think of the beads as a liquid....that somehow air would put pressure on the top layer of beads a push them to the bottom where the vacuum tube draws from. So the vents back to the bead wall intake tubes are at the top of the wall sections so air has to pulled through the whole 17’ column of beads before it gets to the vacuum tube at the bottom of each wall section. Can any of you tell me what motor configuration you found successful? Thanks Bill Dorsett Sunwrights Manhattan, KS



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