photovoltaic | AiDomes

The following covers Utah Concrete AiDomes off Grid at 7500 feet elevation. 

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The Collars chose the American Ingenuity super insulated concrete domes because they are five miles from closest fire station and need to produce their own power for heating. Their area is surrounded by forests that could burn at any time so a noncombustible concrete exterior was a must for their new home.   At the bottom of this page is a pdf containing a four page article that ran in Home Power Magazine describing their domes.

45′ home dome is 2,025 square feet: (1,487 sq.ft. on first floor with 538 sq.ft. on the second floor).  Link of 175 sq.ft. contains utility room and 1/2 bath.  30′ garage dome has 642 sq.ft on first floor with battery & inverter room of 145 sq.ft. –  269 sq.ft of attic storage.

45′ first floor contains 252 sq.ft. master bedroom with 71 sq.ft. closet, 115 sq.ft. bath.  Kitchen is 206 sq.ft. with 70 sq.ft. pantry. Living room 365 sq.ft.  Dining room 200 sq.ft.  45′ second floor contains 150 sq.ft. office, 72 sq.ft. bathroom and 166 sq.ft. guest room. Here are pdfs to view their floor plan layouts.

The following heating recap was written by Mr. Collar in July of 2012.

Inside, the masonry heater (also called a “Russian furnace”) consists of a large masonry firebox topped with a flue internally configured as a maze. Flue gasses exit the top of the lower firebox and travel up and down and back and forth through the flue maze imparting heat into the masonry before going up the stack. The large mass of the firebox/flue stores the heat and radiates it out into the room over a long period. During winter I usually have one fire per day. I fill the firebox very full and light it off between 6:00 and 8:00 in the evening. The fire is not dampered but burns hot and fast so there’s little creosote buildup. The fire dies out between 10:00 and midnight and I close off the air supply and flue dampers for maximum heat retention. In the morning the fireplace masonry is hot to the touch and it simply radiates its stored heat all day keeping the dome comfortably warm. The fireplace is centrally located to maximize heating, extending into the master bedroom. I added two small forced air fans at the top of the firebox to pull even more air over the face and thus increase heat discharge — although I rarely use them.

There are 11 solar water tubes each about a foot in diameter and 8 feet tall placed in a large south-facing window. Originally designed for aquaculture, they are water-filled with waterbed conditioner added for algae control. In the winter the sun warms the water during the daytime. Even with nighttime temperatures below zero, the tubes can reach 85 deg F on a sunny day — especially if there’s snow on the ground to increase the solar radiation effect. At night the tubes re-radiate heat back into the house and I lower the thermal curtain between the tubes and the large window to prevent heat loss back outside. (The thermal curtain is visible in photo 2). I worked with American Ingenuity’s designers to ensure the entryway overhang was sized to shade the tubes during the summer and to provide adequate foundation to handle the extra weight of the water.

The house generally stays comfortable for up to three days without supplemental heat. However, I also have two small propane direct vent wall heaters which are used only when I expect to be gone for more than two days. I’m working on automating the thermal curtain to be able to raise and lower it for daytime solar gain when I’m not at home.

The following was exerted from a July 1998 Home Power magazine: “To power the home they utilized “Photovoltaic array of 32 BP-75 panels supplying an APT3 power center which charges their 2110 Amp-hour Pacific Chloride batteries. This is enough to last them three to five days, depending on usage. Given their ridge top location, they included lightning protection in the APT. A Trace SW4024 sine wave inverter provides clean electrical power with no noticeable line noise. A backup generator is available if needed.” “There average summertime power consumption is between 150 and 200 kWh/month for 2,700 sq.ft. of living space. Wintertime consumption is somewhat higher. For comparison, there average pre-solar usage was near 600 kWh/month in their 2,000 sq.ft. suburban home!”

Download the entire story here in pdf.

Knock $4,000 off Your Taxes by Going Solar

Save even more by adding state incentives to those in the new federal energy bill, the first in 20 years

 

By Forbes.com


In the new energy law, the U.S. Congress lavished tax breaks on its usual fossil-fuel favorites—there’s $1.6 billion in tax credits for new coal technology, $1 billion for gas distribution lines, another $1 billion for oil and gas exploration costs, $400 million for oil refineries, and so on.

 

 

But the solar energy industry is betting that its comparatively tiny share of the energy bill spoils will be enough to jump-start the industry.

 

The cost of the solar tax breaks to the U.S. Treasury—less than $52 million out of a $14.5 billion energy package—may seem trifling. But the handout shows that Washington supports solar, and that should encourage more states to offer breaks too, solar supporters say.


“For anybody who has ever considered installing a solar system, Washington is telling you to do it now,” says Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington, D.C. That’s good news for solar equipment manufacturers like General Electric and Evergreen Solar.


Claiming the credit


The law both increases tax credits for commercial solar installations and offers individual homeowners a credit for the first time in 20 years. (An earlier personal-use solar credit was in effect from 1979 to 1985.)

 

 

Companies such as FedEx and Johnson & Johnson that have already installed solar systems on some properties, and have made a commitment toward adding more, are likely to pick up the pace, predicts Resch. “The federal incentives by themselves will not create a market for solar energy, but when combined with state incentives, you reach the economic tipping point to make it work,” he adds.


Homeowners get a more limited credit. They can put in a photovoltaic system (roof panels that take in energy from the sun and turn it into electricity) and/or a solar-powered hot water system (for hot water heaters, radiant floors or radiators), and get a federal tax credit worth 30% of the systems’ cost, up to a credit of $2,000 per system. There are a couple of catches: The heating system can’t be for a pool or hot tub, and the federal credit applies to the net system cost after any state incentives.


The good part is that this new federal break is a credit—not a deduction—meaning it reduces your tax bill directly, dollar for dollar. So, if you install both eligible solar systems in your house, you can knock $4,000 off your federal tax bill. And if you have more credit than you owe in tax, you can carry it over and use it to defray next year’s federal tax bill.


 

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American Ingenuity suggests that dome owners try to locate their fireplace toward the middle of the dome, rather than along the outside edge which would cause the flue to be very tall on the outside. This puts more of the flue pipe inside the house where it can radiate the heat.  However if needed the fireplace can be installed on an exterior wall.

How is the fireplace flue installed in the Ai dome? Contact Ai for a document that explains how to cut a hole in the panel, affix bolts to the dome, etc.)

  • As long as the flue pipe is round, simply bust a hole in the thin concrete of the component panel. Do not cut within eight inches of a concrete seam center.
  • Enlarge the hole in the E.P.S. insulation so that you can replace the E.P.S. with 2” of fiberglass insulation. (Most times the flue pipes are double walled so you do not have to replace the E.P.S. with fiberglass insulation.)
  • Then concrete around the flue pipe, caulk and paint.
  • Use a nonsilicon caulk like urethane or latex or use a butyl rubber.

In the Ai Domes can I use a fireplace to heat them? Yes. Ai’s smaller sized domes (22’, 27’, 30’, 34’) have such small heating and air-conditioning demands; it could be practical for to utilize a window air-conditioner and a space heater. A ventilating wood stove or fireplace may provide all the needed heat for even our larger domes located in cold climates.

Bear in mind in some states, including Florida, a permanent heat source has to be shown in your building plans and installed within your dome. This means a space heater would not be acceptable. You would need at least a baseboard heater installed to comply with the permanent heat source requirement.  Ask your building department if they have a permanent heat source requirement.

Can even your 45’ dome be heated with a fireplace? Yes if the heat from your fireplace is blown through your duct system to heat each of your rooms.  The following Home Power magazine article discusses how the Collar’s heat their dome with a fireplace.

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 and Mary Collar planned to build their solar retirement home. To extend electric power to their home site would cost $22,000.00 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. The American Ingenuity dome kit was selected for its strength, energy efficiency and its affordability. They selected sub contractors 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.

To view the complete article, click Utah Dome at 7,500′ elevation.