A Retrofitted Passive Solar Home

In 1979, Roger Sherman and Laurence Doxsey retrofitted a conventional home into a passive solar home while retaining the character of the original structure. Here's how they did it.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 solar retrifit - diagram
    Diagram indicates new features of the retrofitted passive solar home.
  • 062 solar retrifit - two panels2
    LEFT: Water tubes and a masonry floor capture solar heat filtering through south-facing windows. RIGHT: Enlarged passageways permit the free flow of air and heat.
  • 062 solar retrifit - three panels
    LEFT: The retrofitted passive solar home retains its original character and that of the surrounding neighborhood. TOP RIGHT: The vertical wall collector absorbs heat for transfer to remote rooms. BOTTOM RIGHT: Enclosed upper and lower porches increase the amount of west and south-facing window area.

  • 062 solar retrifit - diagram
  • 062 solar retrifit - two panels2
  • 062 solar retrifit - three panels

MOTHER EARTH NEWS has, over the past decade, featured a great number of sun-heated homes. And although the specific designs of the structures have varied widely, most have reflected their builders' devotion to the passive solar concept.

Such "from the ground up" planning can, as we've seen, result in both efficient and beautiful dwellings. Many folks, however, already own conventional homes, and given the state of the economy won't be likely to build new structures in the near future . . . although the same people may often wish that they could make their present houses more energy self-sufficient.

Well, here's the story of a conventional home that provides proof positive a retrofitted passive solar home can be functional and strikingly attractive. But the dwelling — which is located in Asheville, North Carolina — hasn't always been such a treat to the eyes. In fact just a short year ago the building was in such a state of disrepair that it was on the brink of being condemned.

Fortunately, two fellows named Roger Sherman and Laurence Doxsey snatched the old place from the clutches of the city inspectors in the spring of 1979 for a mere $4,000. And better yet, the rescuers immediately set to work outlining a design program to transform the dilapidated home into an efficient solar structure that would blend in with the rest of the neighborhood (an area that has been designated as a National Historical Preservation District).

A Reborn Building

A major part of the dwelling's "solarification" was accomplished by rebuilding — and enclosing — the home's upper and lower porches, which had been almost completely lost to decay. Roger and Laurence decided to use small thermopane windows, installed in "recycled" room dividers, to form the south glazing on the reconstructed sun rooms. (The choice of small windows, rather than large panes, helped the remodeled building fit in with its "classic" neighbors.)

It's estimated that the enclosed porches, coupled with a number of enlarged west-facing windows, have increased the dwelling's south- and west-facing glazed area by nearly 500%. And to take full advantage of the increased light, the builders installed a total of seven Kalwall Sunlite Tubes (three of them upstairs and four on the first floor, with a combined water storage capacity of 96 cubic feet) along the south walls of the two sun rooms.

Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019


Next: April, 27-28 2019
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me