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

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.

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