Solar Thermal Home Heating in Massachusetts and New England

This is a list of people who are at least partially heating their house with active solar thermal systems. “Active” meaning a bit more than solar tempering or passive solar design. But still… the simpler the better!

Last Updated — Feb 2020

Start here:
“Do the passive solar design principles developed in the 1970s still make sense? Probably not.” LINK

3 ways:
– water like solar hot water heating (SDHW), but using it also for heating the house. often using radiant floor heating since that works well with moderately hot solar-heated water rather than 180F water.
– direct solar air heating: simple, but harder to store for cloudy days
SunMate, SolarWall, DIY sunspaces or thermosiphon/thermosyphon “solar siding”
– indirectly via electric ground- or air-source heat pumps running off of PV (like our house — Haugsjaa House). I am *NOT* including this 3rd kind in this list.

One note… some of these houses might have been cheaper to heat if they had just used more insulation. That said, solar heating and solar electricity make a lot of sense in renovations.

OK, here’s the list of houses I am aware of which make substantial efforts at home heating with solar.

  1. Minergy House, Lexington MA 1980
    “What did we learn from the Minergy House and other houses like it? After 35 years, everything works!” LINK
  2. KFC and Taco Bell, Northampton MA – SolarWall
  3. Gino Buccella, Weymouth MA – DIY sunspace (“low-mass, thermally-isolated”)
  4. Solar Staircase Home, Boxborough MA — a still functioning Norman Saunders design. Wow! See also “Saunders Cliff House, Weston MA”
  5. A different kind of solar staircase in New England (featured in The Compact House Book)
    I think this is actually a good idea in that rooms on the South do get quite bright and it’s especially silly if they are bedrooms where people are trying to sleep.
  6. Tina Clarke, Montague MA — see that SunMate solar air heater on the side of the house? It heats much of the house because the house is very well insulated and needs very little heat.
  7. SEVIER-FARB RESIDENCE, Mark Sevier, Sudbury MA
  8. Kim Quirk Home, Enfield NH
  9. Heather Parker Home, Portsmouth NH
  10. Nancy and Donald White Home, Rexford NY — “50 ft solarium with indoor planter bed”
  11. George Adams Home, Lincoln MA – “swimming pool heat sink”
  12. Hanover House, Hanover NH — Marc Rosenbaum award-winning superinsulated and active solar
  13. Harry Thomason, Richford VT — trickle collectors. Since 1984. “Pinnacle Road U.S. Customs border station in Richford, Vermont, on the U.S.-Canadian border”
  14. Millham House, Marlborough MA 1980

NORMAN SAUNDERS — There are several books and many web discussions on the 100% solar houses in MA designed by Norman Saunders
William Shurcliff — also several very good books by this author, including one which details 2 Saunders houses
“If cloudy days are like coin flips” — Nick Pine
97% solar heating with 5-days of storage (96.875 = 1-0.5^5) This is the basic approach of the Saunders houses
Comments on Seasonal Storage — Summary: it probably doesn’t work if you work the numbers.