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re: norman b. saunder's super solar house
28 apr 2000
paul & melanie romano   wrote:

>has anyone heard of mr. saunder's 100% solar heated houses?

hardly anyone, it seems. although this professional engineer designed
many of them in cold, cloudy new england and other places since about
1946. he's the very first recipient of the annual american solar energy
association's passive solar pioneer awards, but when i noticed a recent
article in an ases magazine describing yet another direct gain house with
mediocre performance in glowing terms and called the writer to suggest
a story on norman's houses, he said he had never heard of him... :-)

norman would be about 85 now, and i have the impression that
he is no longer designing houses.

>i have a book on them written by william a. shurcliff...

"super solar houses." you might also look at shurcliff's "new inventions
in low-cost solar heating" and "thermal shutters and shades" and "super
insulated houses and air-to-air heat exchangers." dr. shurcliff would be
about 92 years old now...

>i would like to build one of the houses that mr. saunders has designed
>including the glass south facing roof with thousands of gallons of water
>in the attic and a basement full of a couple of tons of boulders to
>regulate the heat.

he typically used about 10k pounds of water in sealed containers
in the attic (with prefab trusses designed for that weight) and 20k
pounds of rocks in the basement. the roof was a "staircase" with several
layers of vertical glazing and horizontal external glass mirrors 
to triple the wintertime solar intensity. he also suggested glazing
the whole exterior south wall of a house (with an air gap and a dark
surface behind the areas without windows) to collect warm air that
would rise up into the attic and provide further heat for the water
containers, which were smallish (3 gallons?) for better heat transfer
between the water inside them and the air outside them. 

>the idea is you pull the heated air from the attic and pump it
>through the rock and into the house at a regulated temperature
>of about 72 degrees. 

not exactly, as i recall. having active hot and cold stores available
makes for good house temperature control, as in a push-pull amplifier
or a cmos ic. to warm the house, circulate air between the house and the
attic, and circulate air between the house and the basement to cool it. 

>...the book is a little dated, it was published in 1983, but the
>principles seem sound.

yes. there are some new techniques and materials and weather data. 
we might improve these 100% solar heated houses by reducing the cost
or the cost of the electrical energy needed to operate the fans or
the yearly maintenance, eg topping up water containers, which are not
hermetically sealed, or by improving their room temperature control
or by reducing the amount of thermal mass needed or moving it out of
the attic, in earthquake areas, to improve safety. 

>please let me know if anyone knows about the implementation of these
>designs especially in the ottawa, canada area.

perhaps someone has a complete list of his houses and schools and
churches and other structures... 


nicholson l. pine                      system design and consulting
pine associates, ltd.                           (610) 489-1475/0545 
821 collegeville road                           fax: (610) 489-7057
collegeville, pa 19426                     email:

computer simulation and modeling. high performance, low cost, solar heating
and cogeneration system design. bsee, msee. senior member, ieee. registered
us patent agent. web site: 

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