Science Energy Steven M. Johnson's Idea for Solar Heating Makes a Lot of Sense. By Lloyd Alter Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Lloyd Alter Updated October 11, 2018 ©. Steven M. Johnson Share Twitter Pinterest Email Energy Renewable Energy Fossil Fuels The seventies was a hot time in the solar house world. One creative genius, Steve Baer, built a "drumwall" of 55 gallon drums filled with water that would heat up in the sun during the day. Then at night, giant insulated wall panels would be winched closed so that the heat could be retained inside. Baer was not an architect or an engineer; he was a welder. In his book The Solar House, Anthony Denzer quotes Baer explaining why his system worked and a previous one didn't: He decided it wouldn't work. But that was because he didn't do it the right way. And he didn't keep on. If he had been some crackpot, he might have.... The crackpot is ready to explore new territory without government funding. There's gotta be room for crackpots in any society. Boyd Norton, U.S. National Archives/Public DomainSteven M. Johnson's idea for a solar home is not much different from Baer's: The drum is in the sun in the daytime and inside at night. In some ways it is more sophisticated, as the sun can get at the bulk of the drum all day long whereas Baer's house faces one direction all day. Thank heaven for the crackpots of this world.