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Alumnus George Lof pioneered development of solar heating systems

George Lof

George Lof's home was the first to use solar power. Photo: Courtesy of George Lof

On Parkway Drive in the Englewood, Colo., neighborhood of Cherry Hills, a piece of history is for sale. Years ago, however, the technology which makes this item distinct was of little interest or value to anyone other than its owner.

That’s because the heating system employed in the house on Parkway Drive—although powered by clean, renewable energy—was too expensive compared to other sources of fuel.

Completed in 1957, George Lof’s home at 6 Parkway Drive has the distinction of being the oldest known solar home.

Lof (BSCHE ’35) designed and constructed the house’s solar-energy heating system, which provides between one-half to two-thirds of the total heat, after building a similar residence in Boulder, Colo.

Lof first became involved with solar energy while earning a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He later pursued solar-energy research at the University of Colorado, directed the Industrial Research Institute at DU and worked for Colorado State University until 1999 as a professor and director of the university’s Solar Energy Application Laboratory.

Lof also designed, manufactured and installed home solar-heating systems for the Solaron Corp. The efficiency of solar energy, however, could not offset its considerable expense in the minds of government, researchers and the public. Consequently, interest and progress in the field of solar energy dwindled for several decades.

Today, however, “we are now at a point where solar is going to move ahead,” Lof says. “Instead of having to make solar cheaper, what needed to happen was for other fuel sources to become more expensive.”

Now, with green energy all the rage, the rows of solar panels on Lof’s roof could make the oldest known solar residence more valuable in the eyes of potential buyers.

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