Solar Heat for MOTHER EARTH NEWS

article image
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/PINOSUB
Panels may not have been this advanced in 1976.  However, that didn't stop MOTHER EARTH NEWS from getting solar heat from their own solar collectors.

January 27, 1976 was a momentous day in history for the
staff here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS  because at
around two in the afternoon, the heat came on in our
editorial offices. Not just any heat, mind you. Solar heat.

A thick cloud cover and day-long drizzle kept the outside
temperature that afternoon to a mere 40 degrees Fahrenheit
— yet enough thermal energy had accumulated in our
system’s water storage tanks to provide honest-to-goodness
warmth for 1,600 square feet of office space. It was enough
to make a natural gas salesman cry.

MOTHER’s experiment in solar heating began last July, when
four Georgia Tech students made some preliminary
calculations that led to the design and construction of the
30 solar collectors that presently adorn MOTHER’s roof. By
the following season, other talented folks — such as
engineer Joe Lane, carpenter Bob Pace, and all-’round handy
guy Dennis Burkholder — were brought in on the project,
and to ensure the success of MOTHER’s efforts, a
Jacksonville, Florida engineering firm was eventually
retained for consultation.

The upshot of seven months’ hard work–and many weeks
of waiting for parts–is that MOTHER now has: 1.)  30
collectors, each measuring three feet by eight feet, facing
magnetic south on the roof, 2.) four 550-gallon water
storage tanks in the basement which are maintained at 110
degrees or more whenever the system is in daytime
operation, and 3.) plumbing connecting collectors, tanks,
and the forced-air heating ducts that lead to the
magazine’s editorial department.

We won’t go into a long, detailed explanation here of just
how the system functions — that you can read
in the very next issue of MOTHER, we promise — but we
do want our readers to know that the system is
completed and really works.

Now MOTHER (like so many homes and businesses these days)
is on her way to being less dependent on outside sources of
energy — sources which are, at best, destined to be a
mere “flash” in history’s pan when compared to Ole Sol’s
steady blaze. — KT.