Dear MOTHER: October/November 2014

Reader letters about passive solar homes, making biogas, gardening in drought, neighborhood-scale self-sufficiency, “enhanced” supermarket meat, residential wind power, and more.

  • Reader Tracey Allen’s home on Prince Edward Island faces south for maximum solar gain, a hallmark of passive solar design.
    Photo by Tracey Allen
  • Wind and solar join forces in reader Audrey Greenhill Lones’ renewable energy system in North Yarmouth, Maine.
    Photo by Nathan Broaddus
  • Reader Jay Oxford lets the natural population of toads in his North Carolina garden handle any slugs.
    Photo by Fotolia/Vidady

Our Low-Tech Solar Home

I appreciate the discussion regarding your April/May 2014 Ask Our Experts piece Passive House vs. Passive Solar: A Continuing Discussion on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS website. My husband and I found that passive solar design suited our climate here in eastern Canada far better than a home built to the Passive House standard would have.

We built our house in 2012 using the “old technology” of passive solar, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. We looked at the Passive House standard, but with our simple approach and budget constraints, we decided that a pared-down, fewer-gadgets home design was more in keeping with our life philosophy.

We hired an architect, who went to the building site to pick the perfect elevation and orientation for our home, and that was the best money we spent on the project. We didn’t install in-floor heating, as that would’ve defeated the whole purpose of using the sun’s energy to heat our floors. We also opted for natural, earth-berm construction rather than using a mechanical geothermal system. (You can take a video tour of our home on YouTube.)

When we have renewable energy students from the local college out to view our place, they always want to see the “mechanics,” but what we have instead is the least amount of expensive, will-eventually-need-to-be-repaired items in our house. In our case, less is more. Thank you, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, for bringing the topic of passive solar home design back to the forefront from the 1970s.

On a side note: I wrote a book from my perspective as the owner of a passive solar home, and when I delivered it to the local library, the librarian said he was so pleased to have an “updated” version, because all of his books on passive solar were from the ’70s. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we worked from 1970s information when building our home!

Tracey Allen
York, Prince Edward Island

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