Family Circle magazine has sponsored the building of a solar-heated house whose major heating component is 550 one-gallon milk containers.

The house, built by the magazine and the American Plywood Association, is one of a number of energy-conserving homes built in a planned community outside of Chapel Hill, N.C. The two-bedroom, one-bath house, with separate living and dining rooms, was designed to incorporate features desired by consumers who intended to buy a home within the next six months who were wurveyed by Professional Buider magazine, Family Circle said.

In addition to the stored sections of 15-cent plastic milk containers, the home also has an ample southern exposure and a hot-air heating system with ducts. The system costs between $2,000 and $3,000, Family Circle said.

The milk containers are filled with water, capped and stored. Energy from the sun is collected in fiber glass- covered corrugated aluminum collectors mounted on the outer southern wall of the house on an unobstructed surface area that equals one-fifth of the interior square footage, the magazine said.

Air heated by the collectors passes through ducts and is blown by a fan over the milk bottles, heating them. Up to 24 hours of heat can be stored in the milk containers, the magazine publishers said.

When the temperature in the house drops or it becomes cloudy outside, a damper automatically opens and releases the stored energy into the duct heating system. During extended periods without sun, a backup heat pump is used until the bottles can again store up heat.

The experimental house, which the magazine said costs less than $61,000 -- the nationwide average cost of new homes -- was also planned to be expandable. As a family's size or income grows, a third bedroom or study and another bath can be completed on the home's unfinished second floor. According to Family Circle, 71 percent of those surveyed in the Professional Builder poll favored the expandable house plan.

The survey also stated that 93 percent of prospective home buyers polled said they would pay $600 or more when purchasing a home to save on future heating costs.