Joseph Orr's Fabulous Mud Heat-Storage Solar Greenhouse

Here's a low-cost ($5.00 per square foot) solar greenhouse that not only heats itself, but provides a good deal of the space heat for an adjoining 28 foot by 40 foot building.

| May/June 1978

This low-cost solar greenhouse is keeping a Laramie, Wyoming family in fresh vegetables year round and heating an adjoining building at the same time.

This low-cost ($5.00 per square foot) solar greenhouse not only heats itself, but provides a good deal of the space heat for an adjoining 28 foot by 40 foot building . . . and keeps this Laramie, Wyoming family in fresh vegetables year round besides!

Here in Laramie — high on the steppes of Wyoming, in America's own Outer Mongolia — we have a very short growing season," Joseph Orr explains. "Some folks say it's sixty days long. I think they're wrong. Last year it was only ten or twenty days. In any case, my wife and I have tried to garden here for thirty years . . . with no success. We've always been hampered by such things as snowstorms in the middle of June . . . and July . . . and August . . . and September.

"At last, though, we've achieved gardening success! Our annual growing season now runs a full 365 days. . . thanks to the solar greenhouse that my daughters, son, and wife helped me build. Even with snow on the ground, we can raise beautiful crops of tomatoes, beans, squash, broccoli, spinach, turnips, peas, and corn. Our greenhouse has turned a 14 foot by 30 foot patch of Outer Mongolia into a 14 foot by 30 foot patch of Florida!"

If Joseph Orr sounds like a happy man, he is . . . for two reasons. Not only has he [1] solved the vexing problem of how to grow vegetables year round in frigid Laramie, Wyoming (elevation: 7,165 feet) . . . but he's [2] pioneered a whole new concept in underground heat storage (one that any would-be solar heating system builder would do well to look into).

The concept that Orr (aided by his two daughters, one son, and wife Amelia) has pioneered is called wet-dirt storage (also dubbed the Solterra system by Solar Energy Digest editor William Edmondson) . . . and it's what allows the Orr greenhouse to derive not 70%, not 80%, but 100% of its total heating needs from Ole Sol.

7/4/2018 7:14:08 PM

The mud storage battery has been around for quite awhile. We were building these to heat 20 by 40 foot green houses in the early 1970's. it would heat the green house in Chicago's January for about a week with out a sun recharge. So you may not have looked hard enough :)

11/24/2008 11:32:23 PM

Are there plans how to make this Greenhouse? I would like to try to build one of my own!

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