American Ingenuity Dome Owners care about our environment.
The Build Energy Efficient Homes & Tend to Drive Fuel Saving Vehicles.
Kolb 40′ Dome Home Linked to 27′ (two car garage dome) - earned Energy Star
A: A 5+ Energy Star rating, the highest rating given. Energy Star is a joint program between the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Energy that is designed to promote products, buildings and homes that use less energy without sacrificing quality. The Kolb Dome Home earned the Energy Star Rating.
In the past American Ingenuity has received the Energy Star endorsement for our completely constructed dome homes. Ai domes not only qualified but far exceeded their efficiency standards that are derived from the Model Energy Code. In an American Ingenuity dome you can receive a 5+ Star rating, the highest rating given. When financing this rating will entitle you to the maximum benefits, like reduced fees and lower interest rates.
The Energy Star Program will not give a rating on a Building Kit. The rating is for a newly finished home. Since American Ingenuity manufactures dome building kits and rarely constructs finished domes, we no longer have an Energy Star rating.
However our clients can participate in this program. Energy Star’s web site is http://www.energystar.gov
Q: What do I need to consider when searching an ENERGY EFFICIENT house?
A: To best answer that question let’s examine how most of the heating and air conditioning is lost in a house. The major loss is usually through the walls and ceiling with the amount of loss directly proportional to the combined area. Solution, minimize the surface area of the house. Domes have about 20% to 40% less surface area than an equal size conventional house. This results in an equal and significant improvement in the efficiency.
The insulation value of the walls and ceilings are important but you cannot just compare R-values. R-values provided for conventional houses represent optimum conditions. They do not take into consideration that the insulation is interrupted by the framing, has voids, settles and absorbs moisture. In our domes the E.P.S. insulation is continuous, rigid and it will not settle or absorb moisture. R-28 E.P.S. insulation in our dome exceeds the performance of R-45 fiberglass in a conventional house.
Blower tests repeatedly show that wood frame houses loose 10-25% of their heating and AC through the numerous leaks in the walls, attic, electrical outlets, etc. It is very difficult to seal these leaks due to their volume and inaccessibility. American Ingenuity domes are sealed airtight on the outside of the insulation; therefore, eliminating the energy absorbing leaks.
The insulation on Heating and AC ducts is usually only R-6 to R-8. In addition when the fan is running, the air in the ducts is under pressure and thus the ducts are more inclined to leak. Ducts in the attic, or anywhere outside the insulation envelope, account for sizable energy loss. In American Ingenuity domes all of the ducts are inside the insulation; therefore, there is zero loss in the ducts even if they leak and are not insulated at all.
If you add up the potential energy savings of American Ingenuity dome living, you will understand why our dome owners often claim savings in excess of 50%.
Q: How does your insulation R-value compare to other wall R-values?
A: The following are comprehensive wall values based on the average value of the complete wall. For example the comprehensive R-value:
2×4 solid wood with 3 1/2″ fiberglass is about R-8
Concrete Block, with 3/4″ air, 3/4″ Celotex is about R-9
2×6 Solid wood construction with 5 1/2″ fiberglass is about R-11
2×4 solid wood with 3″ urethane is about R-13
The wall value of our standard 7″ thick E.P.S. insulation is R-28 which is comparable to 11″ of fiberglass batting
Q: Should I be concerned about moisture and dampness?
A: Yes. Moisture is added inside a house as a result of washing, cooking, laundry, showers, etc. an Exhaust Fan is installed in the top center of the dome along with exhaust fans in each bathroom, for stove, microwave and clothes dryer. To bring fresh air into the house, research either a heat recovery ventilator or an energy recovery ventilator. Click on Heat Recovery Ventilator to learn more.
Q: Does thermal mass effect energy efficiency?
A: No. Generally speaking, in a home, thermal mass is the amount of stuff inside the house that retains heat. Although thermal mass accounts for the fact that some things have a greater “thermal capacity” to store heat than others, to understand its effect you can think of it as the total weight of everything contained in the house.
With more thermal mass (heavy stuff) inside your house more heat will have to be added or removed to change the temperature. Expressed another way, if heat is not being added the temperature will be slower to change.
Does Thermal Mass effect the energy efficiency of the house? No.
As heat in the house is lost through walls, windows, etc. the temperature drops. The thermal mass releases (loans) heat into the house slowing down the temperature change. When the heating system turns on, it must replace heat lost to the outside and it must also replace (pay back) that heat given off by the thermal mass. There is no long term gain or loss, all of the heat given off by the thermal mass must be replaced. The amount of heat required to maintain the temperature inside a house is solely dependent on the amount of heat that escapes to the outside.
All houses have walls, floors and usually fixtures, appliances and stuff that will retain heat. A large amount of thermal mass can cause long on/off cycles of the heating system when shorter cycles would stir the air more frequently providing more comfort and uniform temperatures inside. The recent generation of thermostats are a proven money saver by lowering the inside temperature (which lowers the heat loss to the outside) during those hours you are away at work, etc. A large thermal mass makes it much harder to change the temperature; therefore, reducing the savings.
During the summer while using AC (substitute cold for heat) the effect remains the same.
Q: I see that American Ingenuity is no longer manufacturing skylight panels. What lighting methods do you recommend?
A: Over the years American Ingenuity has accumulated information about the skylights and has determined that skylights are not the best method to bring light into our dome structures. Rather than offer an option that we feel is not beneficial, American Ingenuity has decided to remove this item as an option on our dome kits.
The most efficient way to add interior light is to install first floor entryways and max out second floor window dormers and or install second floor door dormers. Instead of installing a door install a tall window. This way when double paned glass gets moisture between it, you or your handyman can remove the window and tarp the dormer so no rain will come in while the window is being repaired. The dormers also provide an awning to protect the window. If you purchase windows that can be opened (with a pole or electrically for inaccessible windows); this would be an additional way to get fresh air into the dome.
There are five specific locations on the second floor where window dormers or door dormers can be installed. If selecting an existing plan, Ai can let you know where additional dormers can be installed. Or on a new custom plans design you can see where they can be located on the floor planner.
If your master suite is on the first floor and an entryway is designed in the suite, there will be ample light coming in through windows installed in the entryway. Once your dome kit is assembled (but not finished), you can better determine if more light is desired by standing inside the unfinished dome. At this point install solar tubes; they can be added into the panels during the finishing of your shell. A hole can be cut into any panel; just do not cut within 8” of the center of a seam.
Solar tubes unlike traditional skylights, are designed to control the problematic aspects of sunlight. They reduce glare and inconsistent light patterns. They also screen infrared rays that can overheat interiors as well as ultraviolet rays that can fade furniture and fabrics.
American Ingenuity Dome utilizing photovoltaics
Q: Can I use alternative power sources with my American Ingenuity dome?
A: Yes. By providing your own Alternative Power you can live in a remote location (less expensive land) and still have all the amenities of a developed area. The alternative power systems typically consist of a power source, storage device and conversion systems. Most systems use photovoltaic cells but is some cases gasoline or diesel engine generators or wind or water driven generators are practical. The storage device is usually large batteries. The conversion system allows you to have 110 volts AC and use conventional appliances. The technology is very refined and the systems are top notch.
The cost of the system will depend directly on the amount of power that you will need. By first investing in an energy efficient house you will reduce your power demand and save money. If you are considering an American Ingenuity dome home you couldn’t make a better choice and you will be doing your part to conserve power and lower green house emissions.
If you are also connected to the local power grid, you will not need batteries for backup and in most cases you get paid for putting power back into the system.
If the cost of the system is included in the home financing it can be paid off with a little higher monthly mortgage payment. Not having an electric bill may even it out.
Utilizing an alternate power source does have a few drawbacks: COST: while systems are getting more affordable they are still expensive. It is still less expensive to buy power from mass produced power companies unless you are far from the power lines. MAINTENANCE and RELIABILITY: Most systems are very reliable but occasionally they need attention. Several of our dome owners have alternative power systems and are very satisfied with the results.
Click on the following to learn more:
- Passive Solar Design
- Solar Electric Systems
- Hot Water
- Solar Power Generation
- Geothermal Pipes
- Willis Dome Cooling Info
- Hydronic Floor Heating
- Wind Generator
- Willis Dome Heating Info
If you are considering an alternative power system in your dome the magazine Home Power offers many solutions. They can be reached at their email address [email protected] or at their web site http://www.homepower.com
PHOTOVOLTAIC EXPERTS & SOLAR HOT WATER PANELS:
Solar Panels: Solar Hot Water panels can be designed to set on top of the entryways or link. Anchors are buried into the entryway concrete on site. Grooves are cut in the E.P.S. insulation to lay the water pipes in and the pipes are inserted through the entryway E.P.S. before the entryway is concreted.
Other helpful web sites are:
- [email protected]
Q: Would you give me more information about solar hot water heaters and photovoltaic panels?
A: An article in Mother Earth News reported that since 1970, the demand for electricity has outpaced the World’s population growth by more than 20 percent. They continue and explain how we are ignoring the warning signs, that Builders are still constructing poorly efficient housing and others are overlooking the importance of renewable/alternate energy sources.
The first and most important step is to limit or reduce the energy loss in the home. An investment in good, uninterrupted, insulation and a design that does not leak the conditioned air to the outside has the best return. The savings is not only in the reduced energy loss but, also in the reduced cost of a smaller heating and air conditioning system. The next step is to replace some of the energy which is consumed. A solar water heater has proved to have quick payback in most parts of the country. In fact, sometimes they can be financed and save more money in reduced electric bills than the cost of payments. When they are paid off it becomes pure savings. Photovoltaic cells have continued to improve in efficiency and cost.
The Mathes’ dome (34′ dome home with 30′ garage dome) in Florida utilizes a solar water heater and photovoltaic panels to power their lights and refrigerator. Although, their A/C, washer, well pump and TV are still connected to the meter, their total electric bill was less than $150.00 for the year. The owner/builder also states, “This has been a wonderful experience that I would not trade for ANYTHING!”
Q: How did the American Ingenuity dome perform in the energy efficiency tests at the Florida Solar Energy Center?
A: Superbly. Test findings were released after a yearlong study prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Florida Solar Energy Center, a governmental consumer agency, in cooperation with the University of Oregon and the University of Central Florida. This study compared an American Ingenuity dome with an energy efficient, conventionally built structure and a super efficient styrofoam house designed by Dow Chemical. It came as no surprise to us that our test dome far surpassed both the conventional and Dow test houses in being THE MOST ENERGY EFFICIENT.
Although the test was conducted in a temperate locale without summer and winter temperature extremes, the American Ingenuity dome outperformed the other structures. In the summer, the energy savings for the dome exceeded 36% and during the winter, the energy savings exceeded 42%. In areas of severe cold and heat, savings would be expected to be considerably higher.
Also, the blower door test showed the dome to be 56% tighter than the conventional test structure and 29% tighter than the Dow house. In tests using infrared, thermal irregularities in the dome were shown to be insignificant.
Click on Energy Test to learn more.
You can call the Florida Solar Energy Center at 321-638-1000 or write them at 1679 Clearlake Rd, Cocoa, FL 32922.
- The required size of your air conditioning and heating system is reduced to half that of a typical home.
- It is usually not economical to purchase super efficient systems because the energy savings is also reduced.
- The smaller sized domes can be cooled with a window air conditioner.
- The best heating system will vary with the area and the type of fuel that is readily available.
- A ventilated wood stove may provide all the needed heat for even our larger domes located to cold climates.
- A ground water (or water-to-air) heat pump is very efficient for both heat and cool. It uses the constant, moderate temperature of the underground earth to absorb or provide the heat instead of outside air. Besides, being more efficient than an air-to-air unit, it can efficiently produce heat when the outside temperature is below freezing.
Click on Radiant Floor Heating to see Ai dome with radiant floor heating installed.
Q: Why are American Ingenuity dome homes so energy efficient?
A: You can save 50-70% on heating and air-conditioning costs with your American Ingenuity dome over a conventionally built home. Some of the reasons for this superb energy efficiency are:
Super insulation that does not degrade with time, moisture, or compaction.
Spherical shape means reduced exposed surface.
Airtight exterior virtually eliminates energy leakage.
Solid thermal envelope.
Uniform R-value. The insulation is not interrupted with structural members (e.g. 2X4’s roof trusses). The only breaks are for doors and windows.
Downsized heating and cooling equipment.
Your kit comes with lifetime R-28 E.P.S. insulation (22′ with R-14).
To learn more click on Ai Dome Energy Efficiency.
To learn more about the E.P.S. insulation click on E.P.S.