Photo by Naomi Hatch
Tony Tangalos, resident manager of the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center, shows off the late Barbara Kerr’s original invention, a wall solar oven she patented.
By Naomi Hatch
“Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole (founders of the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center) harnessed everything they could with the sun,” Tony Tangalos advised those attending the Feb. 9 meeting of the Snowflake Town Council.
Tangalos also attended the Taylor Town Council meeting Feb. 4 to invite everyone to an open house scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Kerr-Cole Center to see what they accomplished by harnessing the sun.
“I want to take the vision that Kerr-Cole people had,” he said, noting he has not used any heat since he came in January, and the home is staying around 60° and 55° the coldest has been.
“I’m here to stay,” said Tangalos. In a Feb. 10 interview he added, “I’m so blessed to be in this community, Snowflake and Taylor community is charming. The people here have a desire to not have change. They want it to stay where people help their neighbor.”
The center house was built in the late 1970s and early ‘80s under Kerr’s direction, and is sustained through a variety of inventions that harness the sun.
Kerr’s ancestors were committed to self-reliance. “Barbara comes from a family of inventers, pioneers and outdoorsmen,” said Tangelos, who told how her family was inventive and looked to make do with their limited resources.
Her grandfather was Ernest Parker, who many years ago invented a portable, folding stove that heats food with minimal fuel.
When Kerr was a young girl, she attended a family retreat and was burned while taking a solar heated shower later in the day. “This experience left an indelible impression on her, and later in her career she moved to explore solar,” said Tangalos. Because of that experience, Kerr established the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center.
In the 1970s she patented her invention of the world’s first in-wall solar oven. This oven combines energy efficiency and the joy Kerr had in solar cooking. It is built on the outside of the house for the solar, but gives access in the kitchen. It’s a fascinating oven, as is the entire center.
In front of the house are a variety of solar ovens that Kerr invented. There is a solar oven, a microwave oven that gets its heat from a satellite dish, a high speed solar oven and parabolic high speed solar cooker. They are on display and information on them will be provided at the open house.
There is a large rocket stove that puts the heat source in a contained environment, which was also designed and built by Kerr. Tangalos noted that many Thanksgiving dinners were cooked in it. There are different sizes of solar ovens for sale, said Tangalos, noting, “It’s all about being energy efficient.”
Most of the solar ovens require moving them to get the best sun, but Kerr designed a sports solar oven that is a black box and doesn’t have to be moved.
A down draft solar dehydrator/dryer that has a serpentine flow was used by Maria Donaghy, who constantly dehydrated food, Tangalos said. There is an automatic pressure canner and a variety of cookers you will see.
Rainwater is harvested, and runs from the roof into rain gutters and a large tank. Because this water comes from the roof and rain gutter, it is used for crops.
Kerr designed a solar hot water heater that is gravity filled by the water tank for indoor use.
On the upper level in the front there are green panels designed to heat the home, and a solar chimney that has air vents that pull the air through the chimney into the house. This helps cool the house in the summer.
There is a solar distillery that provides clean distilled water.
The 1,000-square foot house is heated by solar, has active solar for lights and two pumps for water. One pump is a windmill and the other is a solar pump that is used when it is not windy. There is also a generator.
The house is built on a hill so the front has glass panels and a variety of solar inventions, and the rear of the house is under ground.
Inside the home is a hot house, as well as a living room/kitchen and two bedrooms.
It sits on a 10-acre parcel with grow boxes, a chicken coop, gardens in the back of the house and a root cellar that stays at 42° to 44°.
Kerr was internationally famous, especially in Africa, for teaching communities to use solar.
Both Kerr and Cole have passed away, and now the center is run by a board of directors as a non-profit organization.
Tangalos said he stumbled onto the property when he took a tour given by Maria Donaghy, who was the resident manager and president of the board.
At the end of the tour Donaghy said she wanted someone to take over as resident manager. He felt it was perfect, and is now serving in that position. How perfect can it be, he pointed out; there are no utility bills, because everything is solar, and because it’s a non-profit, there are no property taxes.
Tangalos has plans drawn for a model solar home, and is currently looking for property for a solar subdivision that he anticipates will be ready to sell lots in six months.
The Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center offers two tours a month at 11 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
For more information, call Tangalos at (928) 536-2269, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to www.solarcooking.org/bkerr.