Sustainably Simple Solar Projects to Help Offset Winter Utilities

Tired of the ever increasing cost of utilities for your home? Feeling helpless to power bills that rise as the temperature drops, regardless of how many sweaters you pack on?  If you are interested in saving on heating, cooking and hot water costs, solutions are easier than you might think.  Solar power is a valuable resource and quite the game-changer for those of us interested in sustainability and sustaining our wallet-girth.

When we hear “solar” we are quick to think of a solar power system lining our rooftop, however DIY solar projects may be the answer you are looking for and can be accomplished in a relaxing weekend with less money than a fancy dinner out. For example, many websites boast solar convection heat that can be accomplished with outside window-fed units that may not look decorative but will work great. Alternatively, I like to apply the KISS principle of Keep It Sustainably Simple, yet feasible. I purchased some dark-colored packaged furnace filters that can be cut to size- perfect for solar absorption! If you cannot find dark colors feel free to paint your filters black. I took them home and SIMPLY placed them behind the window blinds on the South and West side of my home. I was amazed at the amount of heat that radiated immediately into the rooms. 

Cooking is another energy hog so why not try a solar oven, parabolic-mirrored dish, or a Fresnel lens for food preparation?  While it may sound complicated, remember I like to keep it simple! These devices, small and large, can be used for heating water for many uses - a plan that will save you money and provide excellent back-up energy in the event of an emergency.  Additionally, I am quite fond of rocket stoves and rocket mass heaters - both for their interesting names and the amount of cooking heat created in an extremely simple manner. Speaking of MASS, you can make use of in-house mass heaters by using solar energy that comes through your windows.  The mass continues to radiate heat long after the sun has set, taking advantage of a natural resource and capitalizing on its benefits.  There are many simple methods to save you money. 

My next meetup group meeting will cover many of these DIY projects and have a hands-on workshop. If interested, please RSVP online for our workshop held on Oct. 24th in the evening and on the 25th throughout the day. Also check out this topic matter via my Pinterest page for many more illustrated ideas. 

John Williams is originally from Iowa and moved to Kernersville in 1995.  His passion for living a simpler life and creating sustainable structures began as a child when he would build treehouses and even lived in an abandoned underground fresh water reservoir as a curious teenager. In 1979, John designed and built award-winning Passive Solar Earth Sheltered Housing, now commonly known as Green Roofs. John continues to pioneer the reawakening of urban and rural homesteading focusing on self-reliance and sustainable simplicity. He is able to demonstrate his knowledge of environmental topics through several local groups. John is the organizer of Sustainable Simplicity and co-organizer and member of several other meetup groups. To learn more about John, contact him at