Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

24 posts / 0 new
Last post
NJrefugee's picture
NJrefugee
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2009
Posts: 8
Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

I've seen lots of survival threads here, and was wondering if anybody had any thoughts or experience with Earthships.  I've been researching them for some time, and I really like the idea of having a home that is off the grid and that requires no outside sources of water or power.  Put one on a nice piece of land, and it would be pretty easy to have some crops and animals and basically run a self-sufficient homestead.  I live in Dallas, and am seriously considering buying a hundred acres of land somewhere within a 2 hour drive from here and building an Earthship.  Not a bad fall-back position if TSHTF, and at the very least it would be a fun place to go on the weekends with the wife and kids.  Has anybody tried to build one of these?  Any thoughts, ideas, alternatives?  

Thanks.

Gungnir's picture
Gungnir
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 2 2009
Posts: 643
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Me and the Wife are doing kind of this in Alaska right now.

80 Acres, building a post and beam (load bearing) straw bale (nonload bearing) with a lime based earthen plaster. The bales are getting shipped in all other materials are currently onsite (using our trees for the posts beams and any flooring. We can't go subterranean or even partially subterranean because of permafrost.

Totally off grid, it would cost $30k for power and likely the same for wired telecoms. Water will be drilled or pounded in the spring (which is kind of ironic) depending on whether what we found is a natural spring, or an underground aquifer.

Then clear planting and pasture areas, for goats, chickens, rabbits (not hare). Plus we have plenty of game too.

So thoughts are I think its a great idea, drawbacks for us at least is its fr**king hard work, I thought I was fit until we started, even spending an hour or so a day at the gym will not prepare you for the work ahead. Of course at this time of year, we're averaging -10F daily dropping to -20F to -30F at night, but we've had runs of -40F or less for a couple of weeks so we're not doing much but surveying, and dropping a few of the bigger tree's while the sap is down.Oh and getting firewood of course.

You should check out our blog http://www.jenninewardle.com

JAG's picture
JAG
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 26 2008
Posts: 2489
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

NJ,

While the designer of the earthship claims that a high thermal mass structure can perform well in all climates, these structures perform much better in the high-desert  (read low-humidity) climate. Any humidity in the air would condense on the cooler high-thermal mass walls, causing chronic mold and mildew problems. Even the climate 2 hours north of Dallas would have significant humidity to cause problems with this design. A dehumidifier might alleviate the humidity  problem, but also demand a significant daily load from an alternative power system.

Additionally, the earthship design calls for north-facing glazing to minimize solar gain in the summers (in hot climates like Texas). While this might offer some protection against unwanted solar gain in the mid-day summer, there would still be considerable solar gain at the beginning and end of each day (as the sun rises and sets in the NE and NW in the summer). A north facing atrium would also not provide heat in the winter months, or provide consistent daylight for growing food crops.

I toured the earthship community outside of Taos, New Mexico 7-8 years ago and very much enjoyed it. While I personally love the earthship design, my priority is viable land first (non-desert). I live on the Texas Gulf Coast, and the proper home design here is the exact opposite of an earthship (i.e. low thermal mass, elevated, and designed to maximize passive ventilation). 

Sorry to be a downer on your idea, because the thought of living in an earthship is appealing to me as well.

All the best....Jeff

SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 11 2009
Posts: 2099
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Seems to me that there are a number of viable low-input and/or renewable-input housing options available to us.  

In the SW US, earthships seem a good idea.  Structures built into the side of hills with south-facing windows and thermal mass in the floor are a good idea 'round my way (NE US).  Properly situated, in the Summer they are shaded by the leaves on the trees (and cooled by virtue of the back end of the house being dug into a hill), and in the winter (when the leaves have fallen) you gain heat from sun through the south side of the house (preferably hitting a floor that'll store heat:  ceramic tile, etc.).  By the same token, in the winter such houses are 'heated' by virtue of the back end being buried in earth that never falls below 50-odd degrees.  

There is no one solution (for the many microclimates).  But IME no matter where you are, there are intelligent options.  Where my wife & I are (NE US), heating with wood (living on a large chunk o'land and renewing the resource by actively planting seedlings) seems not a bad strategy.

Then there are the low-input housing options (low input in the sense of building one takes much less input than conventional housing), such as yurts, geodesic dome-homes, etc.  Certainly, heating a yurt through the winter in the NE would take a lot of wood (3-4 cords for a 700 sqft yurt, so I've heard) but the fact that, given enough land, you can renew those cords of wood, and you've spent far fewer Kcalories of energy creating the house in the first place, can make them more stingy in terms of energy requirements.

Just a few thoughts.  This is a large conversation...

Viva -- Sager

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2008
Posts: 1258
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Gungnir ,      We have helped raise a straw-bale house ,it is really quite fast with a group of friends and  chain saw .  Down here most do put in a cement floor , but I do not see why a wooden one would not work as well .   We like our Heatmor outside wood stove running water through the floors but maybe that is not doable with your extreme cold ?  Our weather is -15  for weeks at a time and we would not stay warm without it in this old house. We have had it for over ten years and just this year had to work on  it . Had we read the instruction we would not have  had to now.      If you get one put it on the south side of the property so you do not smell smoke when the wind is from the north

  As for regular wood stove , I would be tempted to put in two ,  one on each end of the house.  So  both sides would be warm,  instead of keep turning toward the stove .  I remember those days all to well,one side of you is too hot while the other is cold.

If you build it round  (like a yurt ) would that help with the wind impact ?  I would be temped to make the out buildings the same so the animals and the vehicles stay warmer too. Making  straw  tunnels to get out to the buildings without going outside in the blizzard  .   My husband always tells me why Ideas won't work  so I will not be surprised if you do the same .  Right brained people .... Frown       I would think  a big bonus  for straw-bale up there would be to quiet the howling wind .

NJ ,  Straw bale houses would work well in the dryer side of  Tx.  especially with a big porch all the way around it .    Not so sure in the south east . 

I did see an article on someone using old tires and packing them full of dirt .  Not sure how they finished it to look decent but wouldn't that slow down a tornado !  I  do not remember how they framed out the windows and doors but suppose it is similar to straw bale . Hey and someone would probably pay you to take the tires ....  we have to pay disposal fees here .  Put it up in the middle of your 100 acres so you are not the talk of the town until you have it finished and  lookin like a home Smile

Happy planning !    My husband and I can have doozy discussions when it comes to how we each think the place should be done .

FM

Gungnir's picture
Gungnir
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 2 2009
Posts: 643
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Full Moon wrote:

Gungnir ,      We have helped raise a straw-bale house ,it is really quite fast with a group of friends and  chain saw .  Down here most do put in a cement floor , but I do not see why a wooden one would not work as well .   We like our Heatmor outside wood stove running water through the floors but maybe that is not doable with your extreme cold ?  Our weather is -15  for weeks at a time and we would not stay warm without it in this old house. We have had it for over ten years and just this year had to work on  it . Had we read the instruction we would not have  had to now.      If you get one put it on the south side of the property so you do not smell smoke when the wind is from the north

  As for regular wood stove , I would be tempted to put in two ,  one on each end of the house.  So  both sides would be warm,  instead of keep turning toward the stove .  I remember those days all to well,one side of you is too hot while the other is cold.

If you build it round  (like a yurt ) would that help with the wind impact ?  I would be temped to make the out buildings the same so the animals and the vehicles stay warmer too. Making  straw  tunnels to get out to the buildings without going outside in the blizzard  .   My husband always tells me why Ideas won't work  so I will not be surprised if you do the same .  Right brained people .... Frown       I would think  a big bonus  for straw-bale up there would be to quiet the howling wind .

NJ ,  Straw bale houses would work well in the dryer side of  Tx.  especially with a big porch all the way around it .    Not so sure in the south east . 

I did see an article on someone using old tires and packing them full of dirt .  Not sure how they finished it to look decent but wouldn't that slow down a tornado !  I  do not remember how they framed out the windows and doors but suppose it is similar to straw bale . Hey and someone would probably pay you to take the tires ....  we have to pay disposal fees here .  Put it up in the middle of your 100 acres so you are not the talk of the town until you have it finished and  lookin like a home Smile

Happy planning !    My husband and I can have doozy discussions when it comes to how we each think the place should be done .

FM

Hey FM.

So yes we already knew that about Straw bale, which is part of the reason we selected it, and the insulation properties of course. Obviously up here we don't have too many humidity problems like those around the Mexican Gulf which is much goodness, currently we're at 10% Rel Humidity, and outside it's trace, even in the summer it only gets to about 40 on a bad day. So wicking from the walls will work just fine added benefit the humidity gradient in winter will force the walls to dry even better. We will be building on a wood platform, to keep the ground from getting overwarm and possibly affecting the permafrost, either causing a sink or heave neither one is particularly good.

Outdoor wood stoves are actually a non-starter up here, when its really cold, you're wasting a lot of energy, we did investigate it and Jennine wrote a big report to Jim (JPitre) when he suggested it. Same really goes for the floors, we could run an ethyl-glycol mix but then we'd likely have to pollute our water supply or have it as a separate system entirely (with a heat exchanger), which is all overhead. So we're just gonna make do with a single high efficiency hybrid heating stove for most of our heating we're building 40' round and about 1600 sq ft on two levels main floor and "half" upper where the half is a circular landing 10' in from the outside wall so we have a central vault, and a cookstove for cooking. Most of the stove's we're looking at are the 2500 sq ft 'house" stoves the one I think we're going for is the Harmon TL300, that will be located centrally. I'll likely adapt it for hot water heating in a recirculating system so when the battery full power shunt (also known as an immersion heater) either isn't operational, or isn't getting enough power to fully heat the water we can augment with that, and of course there are no heat losses in this climate inside your home, it all just adds to the ambient temperature.

For wind deflection circular is pretty much ideal, significantly better than rectangular in most cases. We don't get that much wind up here to the point, I'm a little concerned about wind power generation. Obviously being off grid, we're using Solar in the summer, and wind such as it is in the winter, but we've had a few weeks where average wind speeds were unreadable at 8' I think I need to go stick it in a tree to get a reading for 30' off the ground but we'll get by one way or another.

I don't know about the tunnels though, since straw bales need to be imported here and they can be a little pricey in comparison to the lower 48. Either because they're bought here, or alternatively bought in the lower 48 and shipped here. Anyway it's kind of fun going out at -40 and below, just not for too long.

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

NJ refugee,

I definitely plan on getting off the grid and being water, food (mostly), and energy independent within the next 5 years with the details outlined in a long ago post but the earthship concept is, IMHO, not the best for my geographic locale (the far north)  and building plans. 

P.S. I'm a NJ refugee too.  Where are you from?  I'm originally from central NJ close to Rutgers University, my alma mater.

NJrefugee's picture
NJrefugee
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2009
Posts: 8
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Thanks for all the replies.  Sounds like there should be a way to make an off-the-grid house work in the Dallas area, but maybe not in the form of an Earthship.  Humidity is certainly a big issue here, and I'd want to be sure we don't run into any mold problems.  Texas also has a pretty high water table, which could be another potential problem.  (Houses don't have basements here.)  Straw bale or some of the more above-ground designs may be more appropriate.  I'll have to conduct some deeper research.  However, the thought of living in what is effectively a tire and earth bunker does have some appeal if the SHTF...

ao -- I grew up in Morris County, NJ, not far from Rutgers.  I lived the last 10 years closer to NY (8 years in Hoboken, then 3 near the beach in  Atlantic Highlands).  I moved down to Dallas a few months ago for job and family reasons, and also to escape the politically currupt, high-tax situation in NJ.  How "far north" are you?

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

NJrefugee wrote:

ao -- I grew up in Morris County, NJ, not far from Rutgers.  I lived the last 10 years closer to NY (8 years in Hoboken, then 3 near the beach in  Atlantic Highlands).  I moved down to Dallas a few months ago for job and family reasons, and also to escape the politically currupt, high-tax situation in NJ.  How "far north" are you?

I know the area well.  My grandparents lived in Dover, aunt lived in Hoboken, and  I always liked the Atlantic Highlands area.  I never regretted leaving New Jersey though.  I live about as far north as you can get in the midwest, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, close to the shores of Lake Superior.  

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

NJrefugee wrote:
Put one on a nice piece of land, and it would be pretty easy to have some crops and animals and basically run a self-sufficient homestead.

EASY!? Hahahahaha........ try loads of hard work. Self sufficiency, I'm afraid, is no walk in the park. It's called doing without 200 fossil fuel slaves.
Mike

NJrefugee's picture
NJrefugee
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2009
Posts: 8
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Good point, Mike.  Running a self-sufficient homestead wouldn't be a walk in the park by any means.  However, if TSHTF and it became my full-time job I think we would get enough out of the ground and a few animals to get by.  Not saying it would be pretty though...

SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 11 2009
Posts: 2099
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

ao wrote:

I know the area well.  My grandparents lived in Dover, aunt lived in Hoboken, and  I always liked the Atlantic Highlands area.  I never regretted leaving New Jersey though.  I live about as far north as you can get in the midwest, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, close to the shores of Lake Superior.  

So you're a Yooper, ao?  EXCELLENT!  I know a coupla fine fine Yoopers!  Although -- I don't know how it goes, or how long one has to be there before one is a 'real' Yooper.  IMO, if you survive one winter...

Viva -- Sager

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

JAG wrote:

NJ,

While the designer of the earthship claims that a high thermal mass structure can perform well in all climates, these structures perform much better in the high-desert  (read low-humidity) climate. Any humidity in the air would condense on the cooler high-thermal mass walls, causing chronic mold and mildew problems.

Hmmmm..... we didn't build an earthship as such, as in tyres and rammed earth, but we did build a high thermal mass house of a similar concept, ie E-W axis and most glazing facing the Equator, none facing E and W. In summer, we also suffer from high humidity.... can't compare to Dallas, never been there. However, we find our concrete internal walls absorb a lot of humidity, and so far, after 4 years of occupancy, no mold. This house is well very ventilated though, and you need glass facing the side opposite the equator to do this, something an earthship doesn't do.

I'd recommend building a classic passive solar house, and that MUST include thermal mass, of some sort, somewhere. You can't beat thermal mass for stabilising internal temperatures, clearly proven here and on the computer modeling studies I used to do....

JAG wrote:
Even the climate 2 hours north of Dallas would have significant humidity to cause problems with this design. A dehumidifier might alleviate the humidity  problem, but also demand a significant daily load from an alternative power system.

Come the time TSHTF, you won't be able to use any toys like this.... If you can't stand the climate, go somewhere else! Anyone who lives in a house that burns through more than 2 kWhrs/day (not counting TV and computer) will really suffer WTSHTF..

JAG wrote:

Additionally, the earthship design calls for north-facing glazing to minimize solar gain in the summers (in hot climates like Texas).

NO IT DOESN'T! Earthships and ALL passive solar houses face the EQUATOR, so in your hemisphere, that's S......

JAG wrote:
While this might offer some protection against unwanted solar gain in the mid-day summer, there would still be considerable solar gain at the beginning and end of each day (as the sun rises and sets in the NE and NW in the summer). A north facing atrium would also not provide heat in the winter months, or provide consistent daylight for growing food crops.

I absolutely would NOT build an atrium in a hot climate..... you will fry! Keep all your S faing windows vertical, and ensure sufficient eaves to totally exclude the sun right through summer. This house has eaves designed to exclude all sun in summer from equinox to equinox... but now I wished I'd made them a little wider so that shading occurs earlier in spring and later in autumn because climate change is already affecting our temperatures here.....

Atriums are neat in NM where they get snowed in, but surely Dallas wouldn't do that...? Is there snow in Dallas right now?

JAG wrote:

I toured the earthship community outside of Taos, New Mexico 7-8 years ago and very much enjoyed it. While I personally love the earthship design, my priority is viable land first (non-desert). I live on the Texas Gulf Coast, and the proper home design here is the exact opposite of an earthship (i.e. low thermal mass, elevated, and designed to maximize passive ventilation). 

Nope, can't agree with that....... If Dallas was in a full on tropical zone like Venezuela or Brazil, yes I would agree, but it gets sufficiently cool in a sub-tropical zone winter (like where we live in Australia) that thermal mass is still beneficial. Just because you build a heavy weight house doesn't mean it can't have breezeways!

If you visit my blog (link at foot of this) you will see we even have windows IN THE ROOF! They too face the equator (EXACTLY, by the way, the whole house is on an exact true E-W axis, this is to have total control over solar ingress) and those clerestory windows, as they are called, not only ventilate the house, they vent heat at night as they are only closed in winter and in rainy weather from the N (normally rare).

Mike

JAG's picture
JAG
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 26 2008
Posts: 2489
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Damnthematrix wrote:

JAG wrote:

Additionally, the earthship design calls for north-facing glazing to minimize solar gain in the summers (in hot climates like Texas).

NO IT DOESN'T! Earthships and ALL passive solar houses face the EQUATOR, so in your hemisphere, that's S...... 

 

Mike, I'm looking at the book Comfort in Any Climate by Michael Reynolds right now, and in a hot and humid climate (only), the layout puts the glazing (and atrium) facing the north and incorporates a thermal chimney for passive ventilation.  I know you designed and built your own house, but you don't know what the hell you are talking about when it comes to this earthtship-specific topic. I participated in building a monolithic dome home in Dallas, and humidity condensing on the interior thermal mass shot-crete shell is a "real-world" problem with the design.

The climate in this part of Texas is not what you saw in a Cowboy movie on the TeeVee. I live in zone 9B, thus a high thermal mass structure is not appropriate here. For a design that is appropriate see this. Your not the only one to have designed and built your own house, I did as well, from 2000-2002.

To live without air conditioning here, serious passive ventilation, with a thermal chimney and wing walls is a must. Even with proper design, the summer and early fall are misery without AC (I know because I have done it). But I can grow a literal jungle (a food forest actually) in this climate without much effort, so I consider it a fair trade-off to be well fed but a little uncomfortable for 4 months out of the year.

I think its hilarious, since your half a world away, that you would assume that you know more about the Texas climate and appropriate home design for this climate than a lifelong resident. This makes me really question your other know-it-all assumptions .

G'day Mate.

Snow in Dallas Texas, December 29th 2010 « Lone Star Travelers Blog

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

SagerXX wrote:

So you're a Yooper, ao?  EXCELLENT!  I know a coupla fine fine Yoopers!  Although -- I don't know how it goes, or how long one has to be there before one is a 'real' Yooper.  IMO, if you survive one winter...

Not by birth but in spirit.  Yes, I've joined the ranks of the greats like Glenn Seaborg (the principal or co-discoverer of ten elements: plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium and element 106, which was named seaborgium in his honor while he was still living), Clarence "Kelly" Johson (aircraft designer extraordinaire who contributed to the design of over 40 aircraft including the Lockheed Electra, P-38 Lightning, F-80 Shooting Star, F-94 Starfire, F-104 Starfighter, U-2, SR-71 Blackbird,.C130 Hercule, and F-117A Nighthawk), and even K.I.Sawyer, the man who invented the white line down the middle of the road (whether he had anything to do with yellow lines is still up for speculation).  It's an interesting area with a lot of interesting people and I'll hopefully live here the rest of my life.

Winters aren't bad once you get used to them but the one where we had 30 days in a row of continuous temperatures below 0 and even along the warmer lakefront, it got down to -30 many of those days, that was a bit much.  That's why I can feel for Gungnir and Plickety living out there in that tent.;-)

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

JAG wrote:

Damnthematrix wrote:

JAG wrote:

Additionally, the earthship design calls for north-facing glazing to minimize solar gain in the summers (in hot climates like Texas).

NO IT DOESN'T! Earthships and ALL passive solar houses face the EQUATOR, so in your hemisphere, that's S...... 

 

Mike, I'm looking at the book Comfort in Any Climate by Michael Reynolds right now, and in a hot and humid climate (only), the layout puts the glazing (and atrium) facing the north and incorporates a thermal chimney for passive ventilation.  I know you designed and built your own house, but you don't know what the hell you are talking about when it comes to this earthtship-specific topic.

Oh but I do......  I designed eco houses for a living once, and it now appears Reynolds is the one who doesn't know what he's talking about....  with N facing windows only, OF COURSE you will get mold!  A house like that would only ever see the sun in summer very early in the morning, and very late at night and only  when it's weak and glances off the glass.  I know, because that's exactly what happens  on our S (S hemisphere) facing windows.

Fact is, the classic Earthship design is totally inappropriate in a hot humid climate.  Why would you bother treating your effluents INSIDE a building when it doesn't freeze over in winter??

JAG wrote:
I participated in building a monolithic dome home in Dallas, and humidity condensing on the interior thermal mass shot-crete shell is a "real-world" problem with the design.

Domes are cool.......  but a stupid idea in anything but very cold climates.

JAG wrote:
The climate in this part of Texas is not what you saw in a Cowboy movie on the TeeVee. I live in zone 9B, thus a high thermal mass structure is not appropriate here. For a design that is appropriate see this. Your not the only one to have designed and built your own house, I did as well, from 2000-2002.

To live without air conditioning here, serious passive ventilation, with a thermal chimney and wing walls is a must. Even with proper design, the summer and early fall are misery without AC (I know because I have done it). But I can grow a literal jungle (a food forest actually) in this climate without much effort, so I consider it a fair trade-off to be well fed but a little uncomfortable for 4 months out of the year.

I consider the necessity for a chimney proof of a bad design to start with.....  Clerestory windows allow you to cool by stacking along the ENTIRE LENGTH Of the house if necessary.....  a chimney is a bandaid solution.

JAG wrote:
I think its hilarious, since your half a world away, that you would assume that you know more about the Texas climate and appropriate home design for this climate than a lifelong resident. This makes me really question your other know-it-all assumptions .

I was taught how to design buildings for any climate by someone who teaches it all over the world and has designed some of the very best designing software known to man (Google "holger wilrath").

If you can keep the temperature of the building down to 26C when it's 40C outside, then humidity is hardly an issue.  The REAL challenge is keeping the temperature down, and THAT is done by appropriate siting (long narrow parrallel to the Equator) with appropriate window sizing (and glazing type) best calculated using good software.....  and of course heavy insulation

Now if it snows in Dallas and you build a N facing Earthship....  well you'll just freeze your tits off without loads of fossil fuel heating!

You can ignore what I'm saying, it's no skin off my nose.....

G'day to you too buddy.

G'day Mate.

Snow in Dallas Texas, December 29th 2010 « Lone Star Travelers Blog

DRS78750's picture
DRS78750
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 30 2009
Posts: 12
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

JAG wrote:

I participated in building a monolithic dome home in Dallas, and humidity condensing on the interior thermal mass shot-crete shell is a "real-world" problem with the design.

This is a common misconception about Monothilic domes. The Monolithic dome is a reinforced concrete structure that is completely encased in 3 inches of poly foam and an airform membrane. Concrete (or shot-crete) dehydrates as it cures and can take 2-3 years to stabilize. The homeowner must understand that the only place all of that water vapor can go is into the interior. If a dehumidifier is not run continuously until this excess water vapor is removed, then they can  experience humidity condensing on the interior of the dome. The second problem that some dome owners run into  is that they subcontract their HVAC design out to "rule-of-thumb" contractors that don't have the slightest idea about how to properly size the HVAC system for a Monolithic dome. The contractor will say, "Around here it takes 1 ton of AC per 400 sq. ft and you have 2,000 sq ft, therefore you need a 5 ton AC. In actuality, a Monolithic dome only requires about 1 ton of AC per 1000 sq ft (or a 2 ton in this example). The oversized AC will constantly cycle on and off and never run long enough to remove the excess moisture.

The Monolithic Dome Institute is located in Italy, TX which is only 50 miles south of Dallas. There are litteraly dozens of Monolithic domes in that area and none of them experience your "real world" problem. There are also many examples of Monolithic domes along the gulf coast from Florida to Texas where is both hotter and more humid than Dallas. None of them have that problem when they are designed and operated properly.

IMHO, if you want to get off the grid then the Monolithic dome home is one of the best (and cheapest) ways to achieve your goal. You can even do it with your own "sweat equity"  They can be designed with all the passive features of other structures. They will require less than half of the energy of the typical structure and hence your solar (heat and electric) needs and cost will be much less.

JAG's picture
JAG
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 26 2008
Posts: 2489
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Mike,

I agree that north facing glazing in an earthship (in a hot climate) is a very bad idea (read my initial post). I think Reynolds was trying to preserve the popular layout, while minimizing overheating in the winter. By "thermal chimney" I was referring to a cupola (with opening windows) with the inside opposite the west facing window painted black. So technically its not a true thermal chimney, and operates very much like clerestory windows.

PS: I wish we lived closer to one another so we could have this conversation over beers, LOL.

Cheers...Jeff

V's picture
V
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 14 2009
Posts: 849
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Hi Jeff

I hope you are having fun with Mike. One thing though the conversation is taking place around a homesite in Dallas. I believe you live in or near Houston on the the Gulf Coast. You might send him a map of Texas so he can not only orient the house he can orient himself.

btw Joel Skousen has an interesting book called the Secure Home.

Stay warm LOL

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2484
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

ao wrote:

I live about as far north as you can get in the midwest, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, close to the shores of Lake Superior.  

Small world ao!!

I'm an old Yooper too.  Naubinway, '64-'68.  About 45 miles west of "The Bridge" on US 2. 

Used to hit Tahquamenon Falls every summer.  Did get to the point where we were comfortable swimming in Lake Superior from June through August.  Usually thawed out in front of the fire around mid-October.

Oh to be young, stupid and invincible again.

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Dogs_In_A_Pile wrote:

Small world ao!!

I'm an old Yooper too.  Naubinway, '64-'68.  About 45 miles west of "The Bridge" on US 2. 

Used to hit Tahquamenon Falls every summer.  Did get to the point where we were comfortable swimming in Lake Superior from June through August.  Usually thawed out in front of the fire around mid-October.

Oh to be young, stupid and invincible again.

Well whadda ya know!  Small world indeed!  I'm in Marquette.  I'm old, still stupid, and very mortal but swimming in Lake Superior is one of my favorite pastimes in the summer.  I swim out about a 100 yards and then swim parallel to the beach for about a mile.  I obviously like the warm days with a light onshore breeze as the surface temperature warms up to tolerable levels.  I swim like hell ... that keeps me planing right on the top (in the warm 6" of water there) and keeps me generating enough heat to stay warm ... for a while.  I usually thaw by the next morning.  I don't venture in in June though ... too blasted cold even for me ... I do July through September and sometimes will do early October.  I admit to becoming a wuss though and I've been known to use a wetsuit in recent years on the colder days.  I've swum in temperatures as low as 38 deg. F but that's just downright painful ... that was in June, BTW.   

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2484
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

ao -

I say we start planning a Chris Martenson Crash Course seminar at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Maybe we'll get lucky and Jane Seymour will come to life out of a painting a la "Somewhere In Time"

Yeah, I know, it was a cheesey chick flick, but Cat and I liked it.

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
Re: Getting off the grid -- Earthships?

Dogs_In_A_Pile wrote:

ao -

I say we start planning a Chris Martenson Crash Course seminar at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Maybe we'll get lucky and Jane Seymour will come to life out of a painting a la "Somewhere In Time"

Yeah, I know, it was a cheesey chick flick, but Cat and I liked it.

I love Mackinac Island and the Grand has fantastic food.  That would be a great location for a seminar. 

Brandon's picture
Brandon
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 6 2008
Posts: 140
U.P. and Mackinac Seminar

Not a yooper here, but from Southwest MI...almost went to Michigan Tech up there by you for college, but opted for a local community college I could afford and against the debt (and the snow!) of Houghton.  A few friends went up there though...still paying off debt, but I think they've warmed up since then!  I went up that way to hunt many years ago...never saw a thing!

I will "third" the idea of a seminar on Mackinac Island...isn't there a "ban" on automobiles there?

The island did get some recognition recently for sustainability from National Geographic.  Not sure what their level of cred. is on the subject, but maybe it's a start.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/features/islandsrated0711/islands_northamerica.html#8

Mackinac Island, Michigan
Score: 80

 
"Still spectacular with great social and cultural integrity. In summer the dock area can be frenzied with tourists, yet the remainder of the island remains relatively unchanged—scenic and appealing."
 
"The pace is purposely slow. Pleasures are simple: bike riding, touring the fort, eating fudge, savoring the view from the veranda of the Grand Hotel. With access restricted by ferry schedules, it will likely never be out of control."
 
 "Its charm, enhanced by the lack of automobiles (since 1898) and the presence of horse-drawn conveyances, is quite remarkable. For the everyday tourist it seems a perfect historic environment. Mackinac is a very fragile environment, though. The crush of summertime tourists strains the local physical plant, and lack of heritage regulations allows for substantial changes to historic fabric, especially in the downtown."
 
"A great example of conservation/preservation/education all converging in a project that the local community clearly benefits from and is proud of."

Take care.

-Brandon

EDIT: Editied subject line for relevancy.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments