Dome homes: Energy saving and cost effective, owners say
By Kristen Miller, Staff Writer
Adam and Cindy Steinert wanted an energy efficient home with a great view, so after many months of searching for the right land, they broke ground July 3, 2004, on 2.5 acres overlooking Lake Ann outside of Howard Lake.
The Steinerts are currently living in their townhome in Chaska but are hoping to move into their new dome home by this coming December.
They chose a dome home because Adam grew up admiring underground homes and their energy saving benefits. While in the Army, Adam created his own dome home plan from an article he saw in Popular Mechanics.
After money was saved, the couple went on several dome home tours in Minnesota and Wisconsin and went with Natural Spaces, a building company specializing in dome structures in North Branch, Minn.
Dome homes are built to be stronger and use less building material to form the shell, Adam said.
What makes the dome energy efficient is in its design. The dome shape allows the wind to go around the dome and reduces air pressure on the exterior walls, causing less air infiltration and reducing the heat lost by 30 percent.
Inside, with warm air rising to the top of the dome, there is a warm air intake system at the top to circulate the air back to floor level. Owners have reported no more than a 1 to 2 degree difference between the loft and bottom floors.
Also, the 12 to 21-inch thick walls allows for more room for more insulation rather than the average walls of 5.5 inches.
During the hot summer months, the heat from the sun gets trapped in the walls and roof cavities and instead of the hot air going into the home, it is vented outside. With windows opened in the cupola and along the bottom perimeter of the dome, cooler air enters the bottom and warm air exits from the cupola, creating a natural draft.
After a year of prep work including installing insulated concrete forms for their foundation, the dome was raised last June.
The three bedroom and 2.5 bath dome home rests on a hill overlooking Lake Ann just south of Howard Lake. The dome equals 2,500 square feet excluding the basement, with a height of more than 27 feet.
The cupola is a sky loft that will make for a breathtaking view overlooking Lake Ann and a beautiful sky light to be enjoyed any time of the year.
In 1972, The Big Outdoor People was founded by Dennis Johnson and his late wife Janet, creating more than 350 domes in six years. In 1978, the company became Natural Spaces after “revamping” the dome home system.
Natural Spaces is involved in 40 to 50 homes per year across the United States. This is 65 percent of their work load that goes out-of-state. This year, Natural Spaces is involved with domes in Malibu, Maine and Washington State.
The two characteristics that makes dome homes different from conventional homes is its energy efficiency with the use of ultra insulated material and its interior environment, according to Johnson.
Dome homes have been named a “healthy greenhouse” with the material used. There are no chemical-treated wood used in the kits and the wood paneling is in no need of finish, creating a healthy home.
Also, the structure used a third less lumber compared to conventional homes, making it a sustainable-type home.
Dome home plans can cost $3,000 to $5,000 and prefabricated kits including material and plans can range from $50,000 to $60,000 and a completed home can range from $150,000 to $300,000.
To learn more about Natural Spaces dome homes, visit their web site, www.naturalspacesdomes.com.