COLUMBIA — Nancy Boon’s solar-heated house feels as warm as houses that are heated by more conventional methods.
When Boon built her house in 1983, she knew that she wanted to save energy.
On Sunday morning, Show Me Solar, the Missouri branch of the solar energy educational group National Solar Tours, featured Boon’s house on a tour as part of the Sustainable Living Fair, which was sponsored by Mid-Missouri Peaceworks at Columbia College.
The solar group works to educate people about using eco-friendly technology to reduce utility bills. This is the fourth year that the organization has sponsored a local tour, said Jeffrey Owens of Show Me Solar. The group also sponsored tours of a house with a solar water heating system and a house with grid-intertied solar panels.
“The purpose in doing the tour is to help people understand that you have to calculate a little bit and think a little bit, but it’s easy and it works,” Boon said.
Boon's house doesn't appear to be different from neighboring houses. At the end of a driveway framed by wildflowers, the brown house’s double-paned windows face south.
But these windows allow sunlight to shine on a Trombe wall, a concrete block that is filled with sand and is surrounded by brick on both sides. The Trombe wall has vertical slits near the floor that allow cool air to flow out of the house. Interior windows rest above the brick, so that as warm air rises, it can pass into the house and heat it.
At night, Boon pulls down brown window quilts, thick window shades that completely seal the windows.
“The exterior frame walls are thicker than normal for more insulation. I paid more for it, but it has paid off,” Boon said. “I don’t collect heat in the summer because of the angle of the sun. I pointed the house due south so that the angle calculations would work.”
There is a backup stove system, but a lot of the heat is provided by the sun.
Boon worked with Robyn Magner of Magner Construction to build the house. Boon said that in their contract, she put in a “weird exception: that I could be a laborer.”
“I’ve been an environmentalist since I was in college in the '60s,” Boon said. “I’ve been interested in house construction for many years. My grandpa was a homebuilder in Indiana. I had two designs – one for if I remained single and one for if I had a family. I’ve tinkered around with this idea for many years."