"I Did It" Sites and Stories

My favorite Solar Homes  section.


The stories and experiences of people who designed, built, and live in passive solar homes of all types.  Many of these people provide email addresses, and will answer your questions.

To the people who have taken the time to pass on your insights and experiences  -- !!Thank You!!


If you live in a solar home and would like to add your story, please contact me Gary.



Report Broken Links ...


"I Did It" Sites
A Deep Energy Retrofit

Full Details...

The details include a 30 page description of he design and construction process, a photo gallery, and a detailed thermal analysis spreadsheet.

NEW -- After 1 Year Report...

This is the most carefully thought out energy retrofit I have seen.  Gordon and Sue took a drafty 1963 brick schoolhouse with almost no insulation and converted into a home with a heating bill that is 6% of a similar size code built home in their area.   

Features include: R40 Larsen Truss walls, triple glazed R6 super windows, glazing revamped for passive solar heating, a new solarium, a hand crafted masonry heater, and much more.  In addition to a very good thermal envelope. Like most good designs, this one is simple and robust without a lot of gadgetry.

Innovative, energy efficient, cost effective Montana solar home


Andrew did an amazing job of combining a Low Thermal Mass Sunspace, an inside-out Mooney Wall, plus many material and labor saving construction ideas into a house that is energy efficient, solar heated, and cost effective.

A treasure trove of applied innovative ideas.

All the details...

Cristian's Earth Sheltered Passive Solar Home in Romania


20 pages of pictures, plans, and design & construction details...


A very detailed description covering the design, building, and performance of this earth sheltered, passive solar home in Romania.
Cristian's home also includes an extensive earth tube system, rain harvesting, solar hot water, carefully designed wood heating, and provisions for a future PV system. 
Its a fine design and a great story as well.
Massachusetts Zero Energy Challenge Winning Home

All the details...

NEW -- ''as built" plans for this home...

This is a very impressive less than net zero energy home in MA.  It actually generates significantly more energy than it uses.
It uses a combination of a very good thermal envelope, solar passive and active heating, solar water heating, and a PV powered heat pump to achieve this performance.
All the details...
A Net-Zero-Erngy House for $125 a Square Foot,
Eric Thomas, GreenBuildingAdvisor.com

$125/sf Net Zero home...
net zero energy home for $124/sfDescription of 1900 sqft home that achieves net zero yearly energy use and low cost using passive solar, very good insulation and sealing, careful attention to efficiency, an air/water heat pump, and a large PV array.
Tracey's Passive Solar, Bermed, ICF affordable home

Details here...
passive solar bermed ICF homeThis is a very nicely designed 1300 sqft home in Prince Edward Island, CA. 

It uses earth berming, passive solar design, and ICF walls to put together a very efficient home on a not very large budget.

Details here...
Mike Smith's Solar Home -- 25 Years of Trouble Free Solar Heating

etails on the system...
25 year old solar heating systemThis is a super insulated house built in 1985 with a 360 sqft solar air heating collector with rock bin heat storage.

The system has been operating for 25 years with zero maintenance and is still going strong!

Details on the system...
First UK Zero-Emission Home Unveiled



Another article with good refs at bottom:

The UK is going to require that new homes be carbon emissions neutral by 2016.

This is one of the early cuts at such a home.

It will be interesting to see the designs that come out of this requirement.

Passive Solar Cooled House in Tropical Areas



passive cooled house in tropicsThis is a fascinating house in Leyte Philippines that is passively cooled using a number of unique methods including a double roof, a strategy for shading south and north walls in low latitudes using the roof, and double walls on the east and west for shading.

The house also uses day to night temperature differences and basement cooled air as part of the cooling strategy.

This house is definitely worth taking a look at if you live in a low latitude hot climate.

Off-Grid Living



Another cozy, efficient, low footprint UK home.

Judy provides lots of good information on simple building and living.

Doug's Solar Home ... Doug built his solar home in the 80's, and has been living there ever since.  The home  includes passive solar heating, solar water heating, solar greenhouse, and a massive masonry store. 
Doug describes all of this with quite a bit of "hot-to" detail as well as passing along his philosophy on low impact living.

See all of Doug's solar projects ...
The Steijger Solar House

Home page for the house:



Details on wall system used in this house:
User and Technical manuals for the engineered "I" beam studs and sole plates.


A very interesting solar home in the UK. 
Features include super insulation, passive solar design with an attached sunspace, heat recovery ventilation, efficient wood heating, 1300 gallon rain water tank, and a 1KW solar electric system.  All packaged in a  very open and appealing floor plan.
The walls are nearly 10 inches thick and use engineered "I" beams with thin webs for studs -- this provides very high R values and low thermal bridging compared to conventional studs.  Blown in cellulose is used for insulation.
The total energy use is about 4000 KWH per year -- about 1/4 of this is supplied by the current PV rig, with more planned.
Many pictures are provided.  The house is located in Sheffield/Nottingham/Derby triangle.
Hanover House




This house designed by Marc Rosenbaum achieves very low energy use with a combination of very good insulation and windows, very low air infiltration, and a combination of active and passive solar heating.
Total cost was about $200K for the 1800 sqft house.
Sierras Solar Home

More ....


A very nice owner built home in the Sierras near Reno.
Bermed concrete with external insulation for good thermal mass.


Gregory Lehman: Houses



A very nice super insulated home in Indiana.  Incorporates R70 cathedral ceilings, R31 walls using cellulose + rigid foam.
The south face has two of our thermosyphon collectors integrated into the wall with full insulation behind the collectors.
A great illustration of how a combination of reasonable size, cost effective super insulation and solar heating can make for a very low energy use home at a very reasonable price.
A Passive Solar Manufactured House -- A Unique Solar Design

Overview ...

Detailed slide show on house ... (pdf)

One page chart summarizing house design ...  (pdf)

A unique solar design that uses the basement area as solar collector and for heat storage.  This design has provided 90% solar heating in an 8600 Degree Day climate (albeit with good sun).  A nice simple design that does not result in high construction costs.
Records for several heating seasons are provided.
A Unique Strawbale Home Design

geopathfinder strawbale homeThis home uses strawbales for wall insulation with a wood frame for structural support of the roof.  The combination of passive solar gain through large south windows, very good insulation, and a unique masonry heater/stove provide the heating. 

The Geopathfinder site is very interesting with lots of information on rain harvesting, a unique masonry heater/stove design, solar food drying, and lots of other good information.
Mossy Hollow -- An Oregon Off-Grid Home




This is a beautiful home being built by Marcus and Emily in southern Oregon near Grants Pass.

The home incorporates a number of interesting energy related features including PV and Listeroid power, earth tube cooling, and grey water reuse. 
The site is being updated as the project goes along.

Isabella Eco Home



This is quite an innovative home that makes use of a solar thermal seasonal heat storage system (that is, it stores summer heat for winter use).  It has many other unique and interesting features.  It seems (to me) a bit over the top in places, but very innovative.

(Thanks to Erik for the heads up on this)

Unique Desert Home

(click the "Slideshow" button for more pictures)



Unique, simple, passive approach to providing a comfortable environment for a desert home.


An Extensive Renovation for Energy Efficiency



This is a complete renovation of a 100 year old home right here in Bozeman.

Covers a lot of the issues that come up in trying to make an old house energy efficient.

In the end, Ron and Michelle decided to go all the way with new insulation, windows, efficient heating, solar water heating and PV system.

Our Cool House

Phil and Lisa




Very complete story on experiences designing and building an earth sheltered, passive solar, geothermal heated house.

LOTS of detail.

Solar Haven -- Strawbale home with solar hot water, and wind/ PV power


The New Strawbale Home




Strawbale home with wind and PV power, rain water collection, solar water heating.  Quite a bit of how-to detail.


The new strawbale home-->
Includes fairly detailed set of construction pictures.

Ray's Round Solar House




An energy efficient solar home.
The home is round, and is built with Insulated Concrete Forms.

A number of interesting features.
Lots of construction pictures.


A solar home in West Virginia

www.homesteadingtoday.com ...

Some of the more recent pictures on on this thread:
http://homesteadingtoday.com/ ...

And, an even later one:


The link is to a thread on the Homesteading Today forum.  It describes the design and building of solar, earth sheltered home in a beautiful part of WV.
The thread is being added to as Mallow moves along in the project.  He has also agreed to provide a full set of pictures and description for Build It Solar when the project is further along -- stay tuned!
Note that the thread is 4 pages long, and some of the best pictures are on the later pages -- just click the page numbers at the upper right of the first page to see the other pages.
The Florida Solar Cracker House





Very interesting description of a north Florida house.  A passive solar home design philosophy that works well in this difficult climate is described.  The house includes solar electric, water catchment, and waste water treatment and reuse systems, which are also detailed.
Off the Grid in Tucson,
Gale Prososki-Marsland,
Fine Homebuilding, June 1997

How to get articles from Fine Homebuilding ...

Fine Homebuilding article on an off-grid desert home that makes use of good insulation, thermal mass, and low energy cooling methods.
The Energy Efficient House

Solar Today Magazine

Richard Crume

Solar Today Magazine article, Sep/Oct 2005.  Richard describes the process they went through in designing an energy efficient home that incorporates solar passive heating and cooling, solar water heating, and many energy conservation features.  It is the best article of its type I have seen -- highly recommended!

Read the full article

Our Solar SunHawk

John Schaeffer

Mother Earth News

Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 201

Building a solar passive home with emphasis on sustainability.

Green Half-Acre -- Off-Grid Country Living-- In the City

Risa Buck, photos Pam Lott

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Mail Tribune Article

Home Power Magazine article, issue 109

A very good article on building and living in a passive solar, off-grid home with extensive gardens and solar water heating.  A half-acre homestead almost in the city.

Simple Solar Homesteading




Lamar describes his very simple 400 sqft off grid home/cabin.
The cabin cost about $2000 in materials and was built in a couple weeks.  An 80 watt PV system meets his needs.
By keeping things very simple, he shows how one can live a very satisfying , simple, low cost, and low carbon life.
Ken's Cabin -- Ideas, Suggestions for Cottage/Cabin Owners



Some interesting low-tech ideas for cabin living, including solar showers, simple solar lighting, and rain harvesting -- plus a lot of fun and interesting things to do at a cabin.

ken's blog on the cabin is here ...

Home Green Home,
Laurie Stone

How to get articles from Home Power ...
Home Power Magazine, issue 115, Oct/Nov 06.
A very good article describing a Colorado home that is not only very energy efficient, but is constructed with a strong emphasis on green and local materials, and within a budget.
Green From the Ground Up,
Jim McKnight, Mark Klein & Laura Lee,
Home Power magazine issue 122

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Description of a home that combines an efficient envelope, solar passive heating, solar hot water, masonry heater, and solar electricity to produce a very efficient and green home.
The radiant floor heating system can accept heat from solar, the masonry heater, or a gas boiler via a shared heat storage tank.
Solar home in Australia with emphasis on sustainable materials


Australian Solar Home



Very nice and well lighted solar home in Australia.  Passive solar heating, solar water heating, PV electric system, rain water catchment system, and grey water recycling.

Looks like a very pleasant home to live in -- light and airy.

Of Earth and Sun
Peter Berney

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 80

A good article on building an adobe house in Arizona that uses solar thermal for water and space heating and PV for power. A little light on construction details, but an interesting story.

Permaculture House in Nimbin, NSW





A nearly completely self sufficient house in NSW.  The house has a very challenging summer cooling season.  The house collects in own water, solar water heaters provide hot water, and all black and grey water are fully treated and reused on site.  The house includes a grid tied PV system which, it is hoped, will result in near net zero electric energy use. 
Ray Mesa Power and Light

Jim and Mary Collar

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 65

Very nice article on an off grid two dome home with some passive features.  An off grid PV system is also described.  Good detail on the planning and design, and some detail on the construction.

Allen and Pat's Eartship



A great story about building and living in a 900 sqft Earthship in the Zuni mountains of New Mexico.
Quite a bit of detail.
Life In an Earthship,
Ellen Craig,
Mother Earth News

Finding Mother Earth News articles...


Mother Earth News, issue 209, April/May 2005

Interesting article on building and living in an Earthship in Colorado.
Not a lot of construction detail, but a nice owner/builder story.

Still Saying "Yes" To Sunshine
Collin McCoy and Christine Reising

How to get articles from Home Power ...
Home Power magazine article, issue 89

Very good article on design, construction and experiences with an earth sheltered house. Also PV, wind power, and rain water collection systems described -- and an attached greenhouse!

Southwest Off-Grid Strawbale Home




Description and pictures of a very nice, 1200 sqft strawbale home.
The home is off-grid, and includes a PV system for electricity, and a water catchment and storage system.
45 minutes from Tucson.

A House of Straw

Carolyn Roberts

Mother Earth News

Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 197

“A single mom and her teenage sons build an energy-efficient home for about $50 a square foot. So what's stopping you?”    Quite a nice story with a lot of useful advice.

The Straw House Blog



This is a detailed blog on the construction of a strawbale passive solar home.  The home includes an energy efficient envelope, passive sunspace, off-grid PV, solar water heating, ...
Quite a bit of detail is provided including 225 posts, picture gallery, electrical load analysis, and a cost breakdown.  Very nice.
Straw bale Odyssey
Joe Haeme

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine Article, issue 81

A very nice photo documentary on building a 1500 square feet house in Illinois.  Good construction detail in photos.

Strawbale Building In Golden




Fairly detailed blog describing the construction of a strawbale home near Golden, CO
No Place Like Dome -- Casa Closenuff
J Oliver

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power magazine article, issue 88

Interesting article on construction of a well insulated dome home from reinforced concrete.

Energy Self-Sufficiency in SW Colorado
Tod LeFevre

How to get articles from Home Power ...
Home Power Magazine article, issue 85

Interesting, fairly detailed, description of passive heated and cooled, straw bale construction home with solar hot water system, a PV system, rain water collection, composting toilets, and grey water recycling!

The Solar Patriot

Amanda Griscom

Mother Earth News

Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 199

An overview story about a family building a “zero net-energy” passive solar home with PV.  No construction detail, but an interesting life style change story.

Sunshine Superpeople

Richard Perez and Bob-O Schultze

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 44

Story about a home near Ashland Oregon that was designed from the ground up to use renewable energy, solar water heating, PV electricity, wood and passive solar heating.

North Carolina Demonstration Solar House



Description of demonstration house built by NCSU.  Open to public.
Tom Elliot's Alternate Energy Information Center



Describes Tom Elliots passive solar home with PV and wind systems.   Tom says his PV array captures 6KWh on a sunny day -- I bet the windows below it capture about (3')(8')(8)(0.45KWh/sqft)(0.6efic) = about 70 KWh per day of heat!
Daycreek.com Solar Heating System


The www.Daycreek.com main page provides access to quite a bit of interesting solar material.

NEW: Daycreek has an update on their sand bed storage system: http://www.daycreek.com/dc/html/journal050509.html

This is an interesting cordwood home with a very interesting active solar heating system that uses 400 sqft of solar water collectors to circulate solar heated fluid through a 100 ton sand bed below the house floor.
A fairly detailed description of the system is provided. 
One Year in A Foam House

Foam House

A fairly detailed description of a house built using Thermasteel SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) walls and an ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) foundation. 

Heating and Cooling With The Sun!

Jim Harmon

Finding Mother Earth News articles...



Mother Earth News Article, Issue 100  July/Aug 1986

An interesting article on a California desert house that uses passive solar and earth tube strategies to both heat and cool. 

"The design I used incorporates a bit of commonsense technology, some ancient architectural methods of the Middle East, and a smattering of Southwestern American Indian building techniques. The result is a structure that's almost wholly passive, uses native building materials where possible, and—this is quite important to me—leaves an almost indiscernible impression on the landscape."

Experiences Living On Solar,
Doug Kalmer




Doug describes his direct gain, passive solar home. The home was built in 1982, and has been serving his family well. 
Doug is very active on the Yahoo HomeEnergy forum if you have questions.
Bill Lishman's Underground House



Bill Lishmans's unique and beautifully done underground home.
Kelly & Rosana Hart's Earthbag Home

Hart earthbag house...

See also the EarthbagBuilding.com which is run by Kelly Hart...


This is a beautiful home that was hand built over 3 years by the Harts.  It is earthbag construction with a lighter volcanic rock bag gill that increases the insulation value.  The house is finished on the outside with papercrete.

The house has many unique features with each room hand crafted for its purpose.  The total cost of the home including land and a solar electric system was $49,900!
The TV series "Offbeat America", season 3, episode 1 has about a 10 minute tour of the house.
Mt Best -- Australia





Solar home in Australia with several interesting features.  Solar heating system with deck reflector, geothermal heat pump, worm farm, ...
Westbrook Solar EarthCraft House

from Soutface.org

Southface Westbrook Demo House

Good Technical report on same house


Good detailed report from southface.org on a demonstration house built in a warm climate for minimal energy use.  The technical report provides good detail on which features saved how much money.  Lots of good ideas.

In my humble opinion they would have gotten a lot more bang for the buck from a solar water heating system rather than the solar PV system?

Juan Espinosa, The Pueblo Chieftain



Interesting article on an energy efficient home with passive and active solar space and water heating as well as solar electric.
Scrap House

The Scraphouse project website... 

The Scraphouse DVD documentary...

At the bottom of this page is a nice tour of the Scraphouse video conducted by Anna Fitch, who lead the Scraphouse project...

The aim of this project was to build an entire house from scrap in only one month -- and have it be code compliant.

Amazing what goes to the dump these days!


Homes from Steel Grain Bins


Its Not Just a Grain Bin...It's a Home...

More... And...

One using strawbale insulation...

Mother Earh News has at least one article on silo homes
Finding Mother Earth News articles...


This is an interesting idea for a home. The bins have a good ratio of wall area to internal volume.  You could add as much insulation as you like, and this could be done with no thermal bridging. 

Once you start looking for these on Google, you find there are a lot of them.

Rotating Solar Home


A rather unique solar home that rotates.

Maybe this should be in the "active solar" section :-)

Solar Heated Ice Fishing Shack

All the details from Bob...

Solar collectors are not just for heating homes -- Bob uses this very simple and effective thermosyphon solar air heating collector to heat his ice fishing shack.

It cost almost nothing to build, and heats the insulated fishing shack very well.

All the details from Bob...
BedZED -- Beddington Zero Energy Development






BedZED is a zero energy development of about 100 "condos" in the London area.   A combination or super-insulation, passive solar, integrated photovoltaic generation, allows the development to be carbon neutral.  In addition, an emphasis is placed on efficient transportation via car sharing and other means.   These homes appear to be very well lighted and pleasant spaces.




"Friland (Freeland) is the home of a small community, the Friland Cooperative Ltd. It is situated in Jutland on Djursland, about 20 miles east of Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city."

"Even though it is called "Freeland", a few rules apply to all: First of all every family must build a mortgage-free house using recycled or natural materials such as bricks, straw, clay and mussel shells."

"Secondly, when moving into their self-built houses - at least one person in every household must start his/her own business or telecommute. Hopefully, in time Friland will become a local power centre and a valid contribution to the regeneration of rural areas."

Affordable "Near Zero Net Energy" Homes,
L. Darrell Jones, July 2009,


www.ruraldevelopmentinc.org/... (pdf)

More details and plans here

These homes in the $200K area have very good thermal envelopes combined with solar water heating and solar electricity.
The envelope is efficient enough that even in this cold climate, only a small gas space heater is needed for heating.  R43 double stud walls. 

(Thanks to Erik for finding more details on this project)

The most original feature of Dongtan is its eco-friendly design. It will have an ecological ­footprint (the total area of land required to sustain an individual) of two hectares per person, three times less than Shanghai, London or Paris

Dongtan Article from ChinaBroadcase


Dongtan, a new city in China, to be built from the ground up as an "Eco" city.  Pollution free vehicles, roof gardens, recycling, fuel cell public transport, ...
Population to be 50K by 2010. 

"The most original feature of Dongtan is its eco-friendly design. It will have an ecological ­footprint (the total area of land required to sustain an individual) of two hectares per person, three times less than Shanghai, London or Paris"   -- How do they manage to accomplish this?

New Horizons -- Christian Outreach Ministries -- Jamaica




"The concept is to use our 2.5 acres property, to teach the young men good agricultural “survival” skills while imparting a healthy Christian attitude and stewardship level, towards animals, plants and environment. Some of the points below will later be combined into working income generating models, to generate funds for our work."