A Unique Solar Heated Home

Learn how to convert any house for solar energy use.

| July/August 1977

  • Solar Home
    Got a complicated old house that "just isn't right" for a solar conversion? Take heart. Even the most intractable 19th century apartment building can be retrofitted with solar heating ... as George Milton of Atlantic City, New Jersey proved. 

  • Solar Home

About a year and a half ago, George Milton (a retired designer living in Atlantic City, New Jersey) decided to retrofit his 85-year-old home with solar water and space heating. Trouble was, the old building's roof slanted northwest and southeast (no side faced directly into the sun) ... and there was no easy way to transport solar collectors up to the top of the four-story structure ... and there could be no guarantee that the solar panels — once in place — wouldn't be damaged by occasional hurricane-force winds (or vandals). Then too, it seemed likely that — since the house sits just 385 feet from the beach — the solar collectors would be shielded from the sun by fog much of the time anyway.

In short, George Milton's aging apartment building (several other families occupy the dwelling along with the Miltons) is hardly what you'd call the perfect candidate for a solar conversion. That didn't keep George from going ahead with his solar heating plans, however ... and it didn't keep him from (ultimately) succeeding!

Getting Started

Since he was fresh out of working capital, the first thing Mr. Milton had to do was find financing for his project. But that was easier said than done since, as George soon learned, Atlantic City financial institutions had red-lined (i.e., blacklisted) the area in which the Milton home was located. George eventually found the money he needed ... but only after making the rounds of banks in Philadelphia, some 50 miles away.

Next, Milton applied for a building permit ... and immediately ran into trouble. "For some reason, the city invoked all kinds of regulations to stop me," George recalls, adding: "It was only after a three month wait — and after I got some publicity on the radio — that I finally received the necessary papers."

About that time, the retired designer began to shop — via mail-order catalogs — for solar heating hardware. Eventually he sent away for a total of nine flat-plate collectors: six from a supplier in California and three from a Connecticut firm. Before long, the Milton home's attic floor was littered with panels, pipes, fittings, controls, and other bits of equipment ... equipment that George knew he would need help in sorting out and putting together.

Help Arrives

Mr. Milton found the help he needed in the person of James Ballantine, local engineer and longtime (since 1957, in fact) solar energy experimenter.

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