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Alternative Shelter

Dome Owners Get Lower Heating Bills

March 09, 1986|TERENCE M. GREEN

People in the dome-home industry have been saying for a long time that their housing is the most efficient when it comes to heating and cooling. Now, in addition to theoretical studies and laboratory tests, one component of the industry has come up with actual case histories that tend to back up their claim.

And their examples come from the Middle West and East, where cold is cold.

The Dome Information Center (P.O. Box 664, Sunnymead 92388), which operates under the aegis of Riverside-based Monterey Domes, cited the case of Laurie and David Mosman of Carol, Iowa. The Mosmans reported actual dollar savings of more than 50% in heating their present 2,450-square-foot dome from their previous 1,000-square-foot conventional rectangular house.

John Dehn of Damascus, Md., heats his 1,800-square-foot dome house with a wood-burning stove backed up by a geothermal heat pump, according to the center, which quoted him as saying:

"I burned just over one cord of wood last winter and spent less than $150 on electricity. My neighbor, with a similar-size home and the same level of insulation, spent almost $700 on fuel oil."

Finally, the center cited the Robert Beranger family, which lives in a 3,200-square-foot home made up of two domes in Rochester, N.H. (brrr-r-r!).

The Berangers say they have found that their dome home gives them affordable natural gas heating during the northern New England winter, and that they expect their winter's energy bill to be about the same as for their former conventional house of about 1,000 square feet.

The earlier mention of theoretical studies was not meant as a sneer; everything has to start with a theory, from Einstein's innovative view of the universe to making a comfortable pair of shoes. But, as English-speaking types have said for generations (and others in their own languages and idioms), the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When the theoretically comfortable shoes are finished, you have to put them on a pair of feet and see whether they hurt.

The theory of domes comes up with two major reasons why they are energy-efficient in heating and cooling. One is the dome's very shape; heat is lost or gained through a building's outer skin, and the dome has the smallest amount of outer skin per cubic content of any housing building shape. The other is that the dome's circular shape and open or semi-open plan allows the best air circulation, better than square rooms.

And if you can heat a home cheaply in New Hampshire, you can do it anywhere south of the Arctic Circle.

Speaking of the Arctic Circle, a recent public broadcasting documentary ("Kingdom of the Ice Bear") showed Eskimos building an igloo--a dome made of packed snow. With the temperature at 40 degrees below zero outside, the inside of the igloo was at about 30 degrees above zero.

Irvine-based Piper Hydro Inc., manufacturer and installer of solar hydronic space- and domestic hot-water-heating systems, is in the process of merging with New York-based Catalyst Energy Development Corp. Piper Hydro stockholders will receive a combination of Catalyst Energy stock and cash in a transaction valued at about $2 million. When I called James R. Piper, inventor of the patented system and founder-president of Piper Hydro Inc., he said the firm will become a division of Catalyst Energy, with himself as head of the division.

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