2014 - Volume #38, Issue #5, Page #22[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Concrete Cabin Heated By Composting Leaves, Lightbulbs
“The chandelier can handle up to 500 watts of bulbs,” says Cleveland. “When it gets colder, I just screw in an extra light bulb or two and the dome stays warm all winter. Heating it in the coldest weather costs about $1 to $1.25 a day.”
What makes the 12-ft. dia. EcoShell dome so energy efficient is the composting leaves around the outside. Cleveland surrounded the dome with metal mesh from an ear corn crib and fills the space with leaves each fall.
“I fill it in the fall, and as the leaves compost, they provide heat. When it gets too cold, the leaves stop composting, but they continue to insulate the dome.”
By the next fall, he explains, the leaves have pretty much broken down. He then repeats the process with fresh leaves.
Cleveland built 2 of the 12-ft. domes as a demonstration for a neighboring school district, which eventually put up five 150-ft. domes to house grades K to 12. Each took about 5 yards of concrete, not counting the floor. The domes were constructed using an air-filled form. He laid a rebar skeleton over the form and put concrete over that.
Cleveland’s demonstration domes were moved to an abandoned gravel pit near his home. He uses the first dome for a private getaway and the second dome for storage.
The storage dome remains uninsulated, except for a similar coat of leaves each fall. Instead of continuous lights to heat it, Cleveland uses a small hand-held hair dryer once a week in the winter to warm it. “Over the course of a week, the temperature in the dome will only fall about 4 degrees,” he says.
Cleveland estimates that the domes cost only about $600 each. He notes that they can be insulated to R60 and can withstand anything up to a 300-mph wind.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Jerry Cleveland, 510 S. Hudson Ave., Spring Valley, Minn. 55975 (ph 507 346-2119; cell ph 507 421-3450).
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