Using Solar Energy for Homesteads

Learn how solar energy for homesteads helps families raise food, partially heat houses, condition the building's air and improve families standard of living.

| January/February 1978

Learn how solar energy for homesteads can make a difference for homesteaders and the planet.

Learn how solar energy for homesteads can make a difference for homesteaders and the planet.


Discover how including solar energy for homesteads can improve families standard of living.

Is it practical for the "average" families to use solar energy for homesteads to heat houses here in the United States? My answer is an emphatic yes. And I base that answer on three verifiable facts: [1] a typical U.S. home for a family of four contains approximately 1,600 square feet of living space, [2] about one hundred and thirty million Btu's of heat energy are needed to keep that typical building warm for one year, yet [3], on the average, six times this amount of heat energy — in the form of solar radiation — falls on the structure's roof annually.

Of course, if we follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, we find that folks living here in my home state of Georgia — part of the so-called "Sun Belt" — are even more blessed than that. On the average, our homes receive ten times (not just six) as much solar radiation every year as we need to keep them warm. And that, at least in my opinion, makes this section of the U.S. what I call "maximum solar engineering feasibility country".

In other words, if any part of the nation should be able to heat its houses entirely or almost entirely with the sun, this is it. And solar heat will work here in Georgia . . . even as far north in the state as you can go. I know, because I have a small cabin up in the tiny mountain town of Blue Ridge (just a few miles south of the Tennessee/Georgia line), and I've been successfully operating what I call a "solar roof" on that cabin ever since March of 1974.

Man's Use of Solar Heat is Nothing New

The capture and use of solar energy for space heating has been going on for a long, long time. As this magazine has frequently pointed out (see, for instance, the David Wright Interview in MOTHER NO. 47), many of the planet's earlier civilizations tempered and warmed their homes with the sun merely by the way in which the structures were positioned and the material in those buildings (often above or stone) was used.

I've even heard of ancient temples that were heated by small streams of water which had first been diverted through sun-warmed beds of rock. I like ideas like that — ideas which are simple, yet effective — and I've tried to incorporate such concepts into my own solar energy designs.

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