comprehensive | AiDomes

snow dome northey good

An American Ingenuity Dome utilizing photovoltaics

Exterior3 Mathes photo cells

Exterior2 off grid collar MESA2

Collar Dome Built In Utah Utilizing Photovoltaics

Q: Can photovoltaics be used with your dome?

A: Yes. The magazine, Home Power has dedicated more than 100 issues to home-scale renewable energy and sustainable living solutions. That means they have had comprehensive coverage of solar, wind, and microhydro electricity, home energy efficiency, solar hot water systems, space heating and cooling, green building materials and home design, efficient transportation, and much, much more. Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or not, off-grid or on-grid, Home Power can help you make informed decisions about your home energy use. They provide extensive product information, homeowner testimonials, buyer advice, and “how-to” instructions.

The following Home Power article describes the Moab, Utah dome home built by the Collar’s.

What do you need when you are going to live in a high desert (7,500 ft. elev.) 40 miles from the nearest town with the winters reaching down 20 degrees below zero? That is where Jim & Mary Collar planned to build their solar retirement home. To extend electric power to their home site would cost $22,000 (in 1996) so the Collars decided to produce their power using photovoltaic solar cells with a back up generator. Their primary source of heat would be their fireplace.

In 1995 after researching many alternative-building methods, they found their home, an American Ingenuity 45′ Dome House and 30′ garage. Our dome kits were selected for their strength, energy efficiency and affordability. They selected subcontractors for the construction of their two domes with Mary being the general contractor. Jim was commuting 40 miles to his job but on evenings and weekends they could work together. They were asked by the state of Utah to participate in “Utahs’1998 Tour of Innovative Homes” which is in conjunction with the American solar Energy Society’s National Tour of solar Homes.

Ai converted the Home Power four page article into four separate pdf pages. 

Click on each page to view it.

National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV)

US Department of Energy Research and development, and information source on photovoltaics. Website includes a virtual library of online reference materials. The Center brings people together through conferences and forums to share information and concerns. And the Center provides and develops various forms of information for people with a wide range of solar and wind needs. Click on Solar.

The Florida Solar Energy Center seeks to provide the general public and professionals with accurate and current information about alternative energy use and production.

Home Power Magazine

If you are considering an alternative power system in your dome the magazine Home Power offers many solutions. They can be reached at their web site http://www.homepower.com

The following covers Ai Dome Energy Efficiency FAQS.

EXTERIOR Schoonover

American Ingenuity 40′ dome linked to 30′ garage dome

Q: Where can I view on your web site, the energy bills for your Florida Dome Offices and for a Florida Dome Home?

A: To view the FP&L utility bills showing the Ai 3,700 sq.ft. dome offices can be cooled for less than $85 a month during Florida’s hottest months, view Office Electric Bills. To view the FP&L utility bills showing a Florida 1,075 sq.ft. 34ft in diameter dome can be cooled for less than $27 a month during Florida’s hottest months, view Home Energy Bills.  Heating Ai domes is even easier than cooling because when heating, the heat generated by computers, refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes dryers, etc.  is used and does not need to be overcome as is needed when cooling a structure.

Q: Tell me about an American Ingenuity dome beating a home sponsored by the utility company, Florida Power & Light, to win the award for Most Energy Efficient Residential Unit in the southeastern United States.

A: Florida Power & Light is a nuclear powered utility company in Florida. FP&L sponsored the design of a passive solar home and entered it in a contest held by the Southeast Builder’s Conference, a division of the National Home Builders Association.  An American Ingenuity dome was entered into the same contest.  The Ai dome beat the FP&L home to win the award for the Most Energy Efficient Residence in the southeastern United States. The Home also won the Grand Award for all energy efficient categories…beating out the FP&L home in a second category.

Q: What Energy Star rating has the American Ingenuity dome received?

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.

American Ingenuity has received in the past the Energy Star endorsement for our dome homes, making us the first among Geodesic Domes. Our domes not only qualified but we 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 Rating cannot be given on a building kit…only on a finished dome. Therefore, once you build your dome you can apply for the Energy Star Rating. Energy Star’s web site ishttp://www.energystar.gov

The Energy Star label can only be placed on completed houses. The label cannot go on a Building Kit. Some of American Ingenuity’s clients have had their completed dome homes rated and received the Energy Star label. To find out how your dome home can receive an Energy Star Label, call the EPA Energy Star hot line 1-888-782-7937 and ask for a company in your area that can rate your home.

Klaus Kolb’s South Carolina Ai concrete dome house earned EPA’s Energy Star.  Home Energy Partners certified his home used 61% less energy than in comparably-size housing.  To view pictures of his dome home, click on Earned Energy Star.  He installed a geothermal cooling & heating system. To view pictures & info about his geothermal system, click on System.  Klaus’s 2003 total monthly average energy bill was $49. This includes the electricity and propane costs for his entire 1,600 sq.ft. – 40 ft. dome.

Q: What do I need to consider when searching for an ENERGY EFFICIENT house?
A:
To best answer that question let us 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.

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% to 60%.

To learn more about heating and cooling an American Ingenuity Dome view Energy.

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
  • While the wall value of Ai’s 7″ thick E.P.S. insulation is R-28 and Ai’s’s 9″thick E.P.S. insulation is R-36.
  • To view data about the modified expanded polystyrene insulation utilized by Ai, click on Panel Composition

Q: How do I remove water vapor from cooking, showering, laundry, etc.?
A:
When the air conditioner or furnace is operating, some water vapor is removed by condensation at the evaporator coil.  Water vapor can be controlled by installing an exhaust fan in top center of the dome, exhaust fans in the bathrooms, at the stove, microwave and clothes dryer. Also if your dome is in a cold climate install a Heat Recovery Ventilator.   To learn more view Heat Recovery Ventilator.

Q: Does thermal mass affect 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  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: 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. However be aware the cost of these alternative power sources could be $20,000 to $70,000.  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 greenhouse 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.

To view pictures and info on a 40′ dome in Pennsylvania which has a GeoThermal WaterFurnace Synergy 3D heating/cooling system, click on Charles Dome.   To info on a South Carolina 40′ dome utilizing geothermal, click on Kolb Dome.  To view pictures of Kolb Dome, click on South Carolina.

Jim Collar’s Utah Ai concrete dome buildings at 7,500 ft elevation operate off the grid by using photovoltaic’s, masonry heater fireplace and passive solar water tubes. To learn more, click on  Off The Grid.   If you are considering an alternative power system in your dome the magazine Home Power offers many solutions. 

 

45' dome with 30' dome in Utah snow.

45′ dome with 30′ dome in Utah at 7,500 ft/ elevation – off the grid. On right are photovotaics

SOLAR HOT WATER PANELS:

Helpful web sites are:

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 EPS insulation to lay the pipes in and the water pipe(s) are inserted through the entryway EPS before the entryway is concreted. I have a solar hot water panel mounted on my dome link. It sits on the link and lies against the side of the dome. To hide the ends of the solar panel, we filled in the ends with foam and stuccoed over the foam so it matches the dome. View Solar Panels to learn more.

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 states, “This has been a wonderful experience that I would not trade for ANYTHING!”   View Photovoltaic to learn more.

ss2American Ingenuity 34′ dome. Solar Hot water Panel installed on top of standard entryway.

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.

The Florida Solar Energy Center can be reached at 321-638-1000 or write them at 1679 Clearlake Rd, Cocoa, FL 32922.

Q: Which heating and air-conditioning system is the most practical and efficient for my location?
A:
Keep in mind that because of the superb energy efficiency of the dome 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.

Q: Can a radiant in floor heating system be installed in my dome?
A:
Yes. Check your yellow pages or Google local Radiant Floor Heating Subcontractors.

View Radiant Floor Heating to learn more.

Charles exterior

American Ingenuity Dome utilizing radiant floor heating.

Q: Why are your 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 the framed exterior walls under entryway and dormer panels that contain your locally purchase exterior doors and windows.
  • Downsized heating and cooling equipment.

Your kit comes with R-28 E.P.S. insulation or if you choose, thicker R-36 E.P.S. insulation is available.

 

Kolb dome prius 3

American Ingenuity Dome Owners care about our environment. 

The Build Energy Efficient Homes & Tend to Drive Fuel Saving Vehicles.

Kolb exterior 40 27 P7120015

Kolb 40′ Dome Home Linked to 27′ (two car garage dome) – earned Energy Star

Q: What Energy Star rating has the American Ingenuity dome received?

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.

snow dome northey good

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:

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 hp@homepower.com 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:

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.

Q: Which heating and air-conditioning system is the most practical and efficient for my location?
A:
Keep in mind that because of the superb energy efficiency of the American Ingenuity dome:

  • 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.

Q: Can a radiant in floor heating system be installed in my dome?
A:
Yes.  Please check your yellow pages for local companies.

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.

Charts are Examples of Ai Dome Kits Shipped

For examples we are listing charts for a 34′ dome building kit shipped to a Florida site, a 48′ kit shipped to a Florida site and a 40′ kit shipped to Trinidad.  

The following three charts list the pricing for each dome kit and items associated with that kit’s building plans.  Ai’s philosophy is that each Buyer pays for only what is needed for their dome kit and what is needed to obtain a building permit.  Ai does not burden the price of the building kit with the price of the building plans, engineer seal on the plans or Energy Reports.  Some building departments do not require that the plans be engineer sealed by an engineer licensed for your state and do not require an Energy Report;  therefore if not required those buyers only purchase the building plans and do not purchase a seal or energy report.

The finished price per sq. ft. a home can be built for is dependent upon house square footage size, finishings, state (location within the state), what building code is enforced, site preparation based on soil and whether the dome is built by a local Contractor/Builder or is Owner Built.  Every area varies on what the finished price per sq.ft. is because labor costs, site development costs and building code requirements vary by area.

The Dome Building Kit’s Special Prefabricated panels fit on one semi-truck when insulation is standard R28.  Ai believes you SHOULD NOT PAY for another semi-truck’s shipping cost to have exterior doors, windows, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, flooring, etc. delivered. These items are conventional items which can be locally purchased after competitively shopping prices at Home Depot, Lowes, eBay, Craig’s List, etc.

 

  • In Florida all new home construction requires Building Plans be sealed by an engineer licensed in Florida and an Energy Report.  For this above Florida Buyer their plans were $993; Florida Engineer seal for 34’ dome on slab was $600; Florida Energy Report was $190 for total of $1,783.  If your building department does not require a licensed engineer for your state to seal your plans & does not require an energy report, you do not purchase those items.
  • The total price for the 34′ Dome Kit & the Fl Engineer Sealed Plans and Energy Report was $34,887.
  • The estimated finished price for this Florida 34′ dome which includes the total price of $42,021 but not including the land cost, utility hook up costs, driveway installation or site preparation is $135,792.  To calculate the finished price take the number of square feet in the dome plan times the finished cost per sq.ft. for your area.  In this case in Central Florida building costs are around $123 a sq.ft.  Their floor plan has 1,104 sq.ft. resulting in the $135,792.  FYI the costs for the land, site preparation, driveway installation and utility hook ups WILL BE THE SAME whether it is a dome or a conventional house being built.
  • Free Web Site To Calculate Finishing Costs For Your Area:   To view information on a free web site where you can look up finishing costs for a conventional home in your state and area, click on Calculating Square Footage Costs. This article also includes  a Construction Cost Estimate Report from building-cost  for a 1200 sq.ft. home in Melbourne, Florida.

    To view the floor plan layout for the 34′ dome, click on these pdfs.

Online Viewing – Opens in Browser
34′ Dome Plans 1st Floor
34′ Dome Plans 2nd Floor

The total price of the 34′ Dome Kit to a Florida site including Parts List Items, 2×4’s for temporary wooden support system, shipping, sales tax, shipping and steel hub deposit was $42,021. 

The price can vary because:

1) your floor plan selection determines the type and number of entryways and dormers.  This dome had two entryways, one window dormer and one second floor door dormer resulting in Kit with Building Options pricing of $33,104.

2) the Buyer chose to purchase 135 precut, drilled & painted 2×4’s for the temporary wooden support system – price of $1,134.  If you choose to not purchase the 2×4’s and cut them on site then subtract $1,134 from the total above. (Once the kit is assembled, seams between the panels concreted and entryways and dormers concreted, the dome is self-supporting and the support system comes down.  There is no wood to interrupt the Aidome panels.

3) Their Parts List Items totaled $1,448.  Each floor plan varies as to how much of the second floor is installed. This determines the number of suspension rods, Simpson hangers for the second floor joists, etc. This buyer chose a floor plan design which had half of the second floor installed.  Therefore this Parts List total will be more if you have more of the second floor installed.  Once your plans are finished Ai will know the specific Parts List items required.  To view an article which describes the contents of Ai’s two page Order Form, click on Order Form Description.

4) This site was in Florida so state sales tax and surtax had to be paid of $2,141. If your kit is shipping out of Florida you will not pay sales tax or surtax.

5) The $1,610 deposit for the steel hubs is refunded when the hubs are returned per the rental agreement.

6) Shipping cost for one semi-truck was $800.  If your site is outside of Florida then the shipping cost is based on the number of miles from our Rockledge Fl factory to your site. Currently that cost is $2.70 a mile.  Please call with your zip code and we can estimate shipping costs for one semi-truck.

 

    • In Florida all new home construction requires Building Plans be sealed by an engineer licensed in Florida and an Energy Report.  This Florida Buyer’s plans were $1,313; Florida Engineer seal for 48’ dome plans on slab is $600; Florida Energy Report for one dome on a slab is $190 for total of $2,103.  If your building department does not require a licensed engineer for your state to seal your plans & does not require an energy report, you do not purchase those items.
    • The total for the 48′ Dome Kit and the Fl Engineer Sealed Plans and Energy Report was $59,786.
    • The estimated finished price for this Florida 48′ dome which includes the $69,246 but not including the land cost, utility hook up costs, driveway installation or site preparation is $232,064.  To calculate the finished price take the number of square feet in the dome plan times the finished cost per sq.ft. for your area.  In this case the building costs are around $112 a sq.ft.  Their floor plan has 2,072 sq.ft. resulting in the estimated $232,064.  FYI,  the costs for the land, site preparation, driveway installation and utility hook ups WILL BE THE SAME whether it is a dome or a conventional house being built.
    • Free Web Site To Calculate Finishing Costs For Your Area:   To view information on a free web site where you can look up finishing costs for a conventional home in your state and area, click on Calculating Square Footage Costs. This article also includes  a Construction Cost Estimate Report from building-cost  for a 1200 sq.ft. home in Melbourne, Florida.
    • To view the floor plan layout for the 48′ dome, click on these pdfs.
Online Viewing – Opens in Browser
48′ Dome Plans 1st Floor
48′ Dome Plans 2nd Floor

The total price of the 48′ Dome Kit to a Florida site including custom two foot additional risers, Parts List Items, 2×4’s for support system, shipping,  hub deposit and sales tax was $69,246.

This price can vary because:

1) your floor plan selection determines the type and number of entryways and dormers.  This dome had two standard entryways, one High Profile entryway, two first floor window dormers, two second floor window dormers and one second floor door dormer and custom two foot risers; resulting in Kit with Building Options pricing of $57,683.  If your 48′ floor plan includes fewer entryways and dormers then the kit cost will be less.  If your 48′ floor plan has a greater number of entryways and dormers then the kit cost will be more.

2) Their Parts List Items totaled $2,251.  Each floor plan varies as to how much of the second floor is installed. This determines the number of suspension rods, Simpson hangers for the second floor joists, etc. This buyer had most of his second floor installed. Therefore if the plan you select has less of the second floor installed, your Parts List total will be less.  Once your plans are finished Ai will know the specific Parts List items required.  To view an article which describes the contents of Ai’s two page Order Form, click on Order Form Description.

3) the buyer chose to have ten foot tall ceiling heights in the first floor rooms that had a second floor installed above them.   As a result this added $2,809 to his kit price.  If you choose to not purchase taller risers then costs for additional risers will not be included in your kit.

4) the Buyer chose to purchase 135 precut, drilled & painted 2×4’s for the temporary wooden support system – price of $1,134.  If you choose to not purchase the 2×4’s but cut them on site then subtract $1,134 from the total above.

5) This site was in Florida so state sales tax and surtax had to be paid of $3,664.  If your kit is shipping out of Florida  no sales tax or surtax will be paid.

6) The $1,610 deposit for the steel hubs is refunded when the hubs are returned per the rental agreement.

7) Shipping cost for one semi-truck to their Florida site was $800.  If your site is outside of Florida then the shipping cost is based on the number of miles from our Rockledge Fl factory to your site.  Currently shipping cost is $2.70 a mile.   Please call with your zip code and we can estimate shipping costs for one semi-truck.

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    • This Trinidad Buyer did not need an engineer seal on the building plans or an Energy Report to obtain a permit.  Therefore he purchased the building plans only.  His Plans were for a 40’ dome on a full basement. The dome and basement plans were $1,863.  If your building department requires a licensed engineer for your state to seal your plans & requires an energy report, then you purchase those items.  The seal cost for one dome on a slab is $600.  The seal for one dome on a basement is $900.  If stem wall is to be designed to get the footer below the frost line, add $200.  An Energy Report for one dome on a slab is $190; one dome on a basement $380.  If in California, hire a local company to complete California’s Title 24 Energy Report.  Ai will email them R value info and dimensions on the dome so they can complete the report. 
    • The total for the Dome Kit & the Building Plans was $44,108.  Total for all items was $50,505.  Shipping cost at the time was $4,531 for a total of $55,036.
    • The estimated finished price for this Trinidad 40′ dome on a full basement which includes the $55,505 but not including the land cost, utility hook up costs, driveway installation or site preparation is $285,200.  To calculate the finished price take the number of square feet in the dome plan & basement plan times the finished price per sq.ft. for your area.  In this case the building costs are around $100 a sq.ft.  Their floor plan includes 1,420 sq.ft in the dome and 1,161 sq.ft. in the basement for a total of 2,581 sq.ft. resulting in the estimated $258,100.  FYI, the costs for the land, site preparation, driveway installation and utility hook up costs WILL BE THE SAME whether it is a dome or a conventional house being built.
    • Free Web Site To Calculate Finishing Costs For Your Area:   To view information on a free web site where you can look up finishing costs for a conventional home in your state and area, click on Calculating Square Footage Costs. This article also includes  a Construction Cost Estimate Report from building-cost  for a 1200 sq.ft. home in Melbourne, Florida.
    • To view the floor plan layout for the Trinidad dome, click on these pdfs

Trinidad Dome: The total price of the 40′ Dome Kit including Parts List, Rental of telescoping forklift to load the container, 2×4’s for support system and purchase of the steel hubs for the support system was $50,505.   The buyer paid the shipping cost directly to the shipping company.  

This price can vary because:

1) your floor plan selection determines the type and number of entryways and dormers.  This dome had three standard entryways, two first floor window dormers, two second floor window dormers and one second floor door dormer; resulting in Kit with Building Options pricing of $42,245. If your floor plan includes fewer entryways and dormers then the kit cost will be less.

2) Their Parts List Items totaled $2,193.   Each floor plan varies as to how much of the second floor is installed. This determines the number of suspension rods, Simpson hangers for the second floor joists, etc. This buyer had most of his second floor installed. If less of your 40′ dome second floor is installed, your Parts List total will be less.  Once your plans are finished Ai will know the specific Parts List items required.  To view an article which describes the contents of Ai’s two page Order Form, click on Order Form Description.

3) The Buyer chose to purchase 135 precut, drilled & painted 2×4’s for the temporary wooden support system – price of $1,134.  If you choose to cut them on site then subtract $1,134 from the total above.

4) the buyer paid $800 rental costs for telescoping forklift for Ai to load the container.  If the kit is shipped within the USA, the $800 rental will not be paid because Ai can load a flat bed truck with our fork lift.

5) Because the kit was shipping out of the United States it would be too expensive for the international buyer to ship the hubs back to Ai for a refund; therefore the buyer purchased the hubs for $2,070.  USA buyers place a deposit of $1,610 for the steel hubs. The deposit is refunded when the hubs are returned per the rental agreement.

6)  The buyer paid the shipping costs directly to the vessel line.  If your site is outside of Florida then the shipping cost is based on the number of miles from our Rockledge Fl factory to your site.  Shipping costs outside of Florida range from $2.70 to $2.90 per  mile. Please call with your zip code and we can estimate shipping costs for one semi-truck

 

Is the American Ingenuity (Ai) steel reinforced concrete geodesic dome kit  less expensive than the materials cost for the exterior walls and roof of a conventional house or wood dome or log cabin or monolithic concrete dome?  Yes.   American Ingenuity’s dome shell kit price (not the finished home cost) is about one third to one half less in cost than what the materials cost for the exterior walls and roof of a wood dome, gunited concrete dome or conventional house (exterior walls, roof trusses, plywood, tar paper, shingles, 3 1/2″ thick insulation, siding, soffits, gutters, drywall for exterior walls & the ceiling, etc.).

Calculating Finished Cost

The dome can be built and finished for about the same finished price per sq.ft. as a conventional house or business built in your neighborhood; however you receive more with the dome – greater energy efficiency, greater strength & fire resistant concrete exterior.  Each area of the country varies as to what construction workers and subcontractors charge per hour.   As a result check with a local builder to see what it costs per sq.ft. to build a moderately finished conventional house – Formica kitchen counter tops, no high end kitchens or high end bathrooms or high end flooring, etc. This is the approximate per sq.ft. finished cost the dome can be built for.

This means if it costs $110 a sq.ft to build a moderately finished conventional house in your neighborhood; then that is the approx. price per sq.ft. the dome can be built for.  For example if you built a three bedrooms/two bath size dome (40′ Theta 11 plan) with 1,521 sq.ft. for $110 a sq.ft. then the approx finished price is around $167,310.  This price includes the dome kit, kit assembly costs and labor and materials to finish the dome interior.  However it does not include 1) the price of the land; 2) driveway installation costs; 3) site development; 4) utilities – water, sewer or electric.  FYI, the costs for the land, site preparation, driveway and utility hooks will be the same whether it is a dome or a conventional house being built.

Because the American Ingenuity dome home is assembled from prefabricated panels, the kit can be assembled quicker; thus providing more savings over stick built houses, log cabins or pumped concrete domes.

Please compare apples to apples when trying to calculate finished cost of an American Ingenuity dome.  A conventional house would need walls greater than 2×10 with exterior reinforced with rebar and super thick concrete and still not come close to the advantages of an American Ingenuity dome.   A conventional house would need 11″ of fiberglass batting requiring over 10″ thick insulated walls (this is with our standard 7″ EPS R-28 value insulation) as well as additional roof strapping, rebar and concrete against storms, and still not be equal to one our structure’s insulation and strength. So please compare apples to apples!  Our kit comes with all the interior shell 1/2″ gypsum drywall installed, all the R28 insulation installed and 80% of the prefinished roof….and no wood to interrupt the insulation to rot, burn or be eaten by termites.  No shingles to blow off in high winds. Exterior concrete is primed and painted.

An Owner Builder or the dome owner’s builder can hire the independent  Kit Assembly Consultant to supervise their workers to get the dome kit assembled. Then conventional subcontractors frame in the doors and windows, prime & paint the dome exterior, complete the interior finishing – framing, electrical, plumbing, installing kitchen & bathroom fixtures & cabinets, drywall finishing, etc.

 

Materials Cost-Finished Cost

Total Materials Cost:  If you select standard items to finish the interior of your dome, the materials cost for your dome might be $50 or more per square foot. So the minimum materials cost (no labor costs) for a 40′ dome of 2,000 sq.ft. could be $100,000 (this includes the kit cost of $47,000).

Finished Cost of the house:  Finished price is more than the materials cost because it includes the labor costs plus the materials cost. So how does dome finishing costs compare to conventional house finishing costs?  If the finished price per square foot to build a conventional house in your area is $100 per square foot and you desire a 2,000 square foot house then the finished price for the conventional house would be about $200,000, if you do no labor yourself.  The finished price of the dome would be the same about $200,000 less the savings on the dome shell materials….. But you end up with more with the American Ingenuity dome. You receive a super-insulated, super-strong house whose exterior dome walls have 225 mph wind and F4 Tornado warranty. .To view summary of the advantages of Ai dome, please click on Summary.  To view info on cooling costs on 34′ dome home, please click on 1,075 sq.ft. home.

To view stock plan layouts for each size dome kit, click on Stock Plans.  To view the sale price of the building plans and dome kit, click on Plans & Kit Sale Pricing.  To view photos of finished pics of dome exteriors and interiors, click on Photos.  To view photos of Kit Assembly, click on Assembly.

Your interior materials cost varies depending on your selection of locally purchased interior items such as:

  • Formica kitchen counter tops versus granite
  • Oak kitchen cabinets versus cherry or mahogany
  • Vinyl flooring versus ceramic tile versus hard wood floors
  • Ceramic tile versus marble
  • Plastic shower stalls versus tiled showers
  • Plastic tubs versus Jacuzzi tubs
  • Jeld-wen windows versus Pella or Anderson windows
  • Standard light fixtures versus specialty
  • Standard kitchen appliances versus Thermador or Dacor appliances
  • Standard bathroom fixtures versus Aquaware or Boffi

A helpful web site is rsmeans.com It has construction manuals, construction estimating CD’s, etc.

Estimating Costs

The following information came from the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Building Your Own Home by Dan Ramsey.

Can you afford to build the house you want? In Chapter 9 it states:  I’ll help you get a comprehensive estimate of your construction costs. For now, though, let’s make a rough estimate.  First, understand that whatever house you build will probably cost as much or more than that of your neighbors — unless you plan to do it all yourself. Based on this fact, let’s look at your neighbor’s houses.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, the typical house built today is about 2,300 square feet in size, and sells for around $225,000 depending on where you live. The actual price in your area may be half of that or 10 times that amount.

So, how can you get a good rule-of-thumb for your area? Of course, you can talk with contractors who will throw out numbers like $100 or $200 per square foot. That’s a wide range. What does it include? House only? House and land? Landscaping, too?

It’s smarter for you to get your own local building costs. Here’s how. Talk with a local real estate agent about new construction. It’s best if you can compare apples to apples, so ask about new homes and lots in the area you want to build. The agent should be able to tell you the lot cost, the asking price, and the square foot size of a few comparable homes. You can figure things from there.

You now have a base from which to guesstimate the approximate cost of your new house. Then you can factor in the following:

  • If you want a nicer view lot, add to the land costs.
  • If you will be your own general contractor, reduce the total by 10 to 20 percent.
  • If you will be a subcontractor, reduce the total by the sub’s fees.
  • If you want to enhance the design, tack on the additional costs or get a square-footage cost for better quality homes.

    American Ingenuity (Ai) – 8777 Holiday Springs Rd – Rockledge, Florida 32955

    321-639-8777 –  Mon-Fri 9-5 Eastern Time – GlendaB.Aidomes@gmail.com