I recently bought a 20 year old, 100% off the grid, double geodesic
dome near the town of Ward. It sits at about 9000 feet, miles from the
nearest power or phone line. I'll add some pictures here later.
There are 3 power systems running throughout. A 120VAC, running off
the invertor, 24VDC for lighing, and 12VDC, for 12V appliances. There
are both photovoltaic panels and wind generators. There are two water
systems, one for fresh water, and one for greywater. The water comes
off a cistern, that is filled by a 120VAC pump.
In addition to the domes, there is a garage with an apartment built
into it. I'm converting this to my shop and office with it's own power
system. Currently it has no power, or real plumbing. There is a funky
bathroom with a shower and a non-functional composting toilet, which
I'll need to repair as well. A definete project house.
Currently there is no phone, which is a major problem, but
solveable. I'm currently considering a Tacyon.net satellite earth
station, which is bidirectional. I am also considering wireless, but
in a rural area, it's hard to find where I can connect the other
end. I have a few possible locations, but I'm also not sure I want to
install alot of expensive equipment, and leave it on a mountainside
someplace. It could be a maintainance hassle. More later as I test out
For some new pictures, go here. I also have a
collection of CAD software I'm using for this renovation project that
all runs on Linux. Go here for some free CAD
- There are currently 2 #10160 panels on the domes. The specs on
these panels are:
Nominal Power 90 Watts
Operating Voltage 17.10 VDC
Operating Current 5.26 ADC
- ARCO Solar International
- There are currently 8 16-2000 panels on the domes. These are
ancient panels, and date from one of the earlier Bulk Buys of Arco
panels in the early 80s. In the late 80s, Arco was bought out by Siemens. The specs on
these panels are:
Nominal Power 35 Watts
- World Power Technologies
- There is a still working Whisper 400 wind generator. This
generator puts out 340 watts in a good wind, which I get pretty
- There is also a 5KWatt wind generator. Unfortunately, when I
bought this place, the blades were broken off, and I hear somebody
locked the brakes, and it fried in a wind storm. (we get winds up to
130MPH in the winter)
- Heart Interface
- The current inverter is a Heart HF-24-2500X, which is a 24V input,
2500 Watt output, using a modified sine wave to get 60Hz.
- Vanner Inc.
- The currently Battery Equalizer is a Vannner Voltmaster, Model
60-20A. This is the 24V, 12A input version.
- There are 12, 12VDC batteries, type unknown.
- Trace Engineering
- There is a Model C-30, Quad Function Charge Controller.
- Photon, Inc
- A Gencharger is used to charge the batteries from the generator.
- Honda Generators
- An EM-5000SX is used to charge the batteries, or to power the
invertor directly when pumping water. This generator was modified to
burn propane, rather than gas, because there is a 1000 gallon propane
tank. This generator has an electric start, and kicks out about
100Watt at 12VDC (8.3A) as well as 120VAC at 8amps.
- Energy Efficient Lighting
- I have a collection of different compact fluorescent lights that
run on either 120VAC or 234VDC.
Water & Plumbing
- A X-Trol-Flow, model J03 is used for pressurinzing a pressure
tank, so the house has decent water pressure. This is a 115VAC, with a
1/2 to 1 1/2 HP single phase motor.
- There is an unkown 240VAC deep well pump. Currently it is required
to run the generator to pump water. There are some very good new deep
well pumps tha run on 24V and/or 115VAC, which I plan to check out for
an eventually replacement to save power.
- The current toilet is a Sunmar non-electric Excel.
- An AquaStar EIM is used to heat water. This is a propane fueled
instantaneous hot water heater. A few years ago Bosch bought AquaStar, and continues to
make hot water heaters.
I plan to keep a dairy of sorts here as I do major renovation work,
as a guide to other folks.
March 26, 2000
This week I ripped the very funky bathroom out of the garage, which
only took a few hours, with my kids help. It was a mess. The
composting toilet only drained to a bucket, and the water cistern was
a cattle trough, mounted up in the ceiling. I've decided to put a wood
stove in that corner as I remodel the garage into a shop & office. I'm
definetly going to put the new bathroom in the end of the existing
walled off garage bay, since that is closest to the septic tank. I've
the 2 and 3D CAD work mostly done, I'll add a link once it's
April 7, 2000
Today I finished putting a stainless steel liner down
the chimney, and hooking up a used wood stove I bought to replace the
stupidly installed one that was there already. The main problem was I
needed a stove that vented from the back, rather than the top, so I
could have less bends (bends restrict air flow), than the old system,
which barly worked. The old one had a stove pipe that went up to a
whole in the chimney about 10 feet up, which was a cresote breeder,
cause of the weird drafts. (temperature changes and drafts are the two
most important concepts in installing a stove pipe) Instead, I ran my
pipe up through the flue, by cutting the old firebox out with a
torch. The test fire worked great! The draw was so good, all the
flames burned aiming towards the rear vent.
For materials, I went crazy and put in a 25 year warrenty, single
wall, stainless steel pipe. As there is almost 36 inches of masonary
around the old broken liner, a double wall pipe wasn't nessesary. 28
inches of masonary equals one inch of insulation, which is
standard. The main reason for the insulation is to retian heat, to
keep cresote from forming.
It took 23 feet of pipe to reach the stove. I also put a T and a cap
on the bottom to make cleaning, and long term maintainance easier. On
top I put a rotating, wind vane style spark arrestor, and weather
cap. As the old liner fell apart from the wind/freeze/snow/melt cycle,
I sealed this one up tight. It'll also keep the domestead from wasting
I'm slowly learning to hate owner built housing... I ripped the steps
up in the bathroom on the pedestal the composting toilet is on, and
after months of wondering, grokked the reality of the plumbing. Not
only are all the drain pipe the wrong size, the slope is way off! Both
major bummers. So I'll have to replace the main drain pipe so I can
hook up a low-water flush toilet. The ground is thawed enough to dig
in, so can excavate outside finally.
June 18, 2000
I'm amazed at how many rocks I have to move! Digging out a stone floor
may not have been the best decision. I'd guess 30-40 tons later, I
have the rocks in the ex-greenhouse dome dug down 2 feet everwhere,
and deeper in the places there is plumbing.
I also managed to get the old Carousel composting toilet tank
out. That was an interesting project. I first had to remove the floor
above it, as the Carousel tank is typically mounted in a basement or
in my case, part way in the crawl space. Once the floor was off, I
removed the top, which exposed the 4 chambers, which I then dug out
with a posthole digger. 99% of it had composed into peat, and had no
odor at all. There was a tiny bit that hadn't decomposesed in 5 years,
which to me, is more evidence that they just don't work good at this
July 18, 2000
Rocks everywhere... I'm so sick of moving rocks. I did break down and
get some excavating help from SugarLoaf Services
(303-258-3725). Having a tractor in your house in as interesting
event, one I'm not sure I'd want to repeat. Scott (the driver) was
awesome though. He did an incredible job in a very tight space, and
saved me months of digging by hand.
I've mostly been ripping things apart all month. Everytime I get into
something, it turns out to be a huge project. Nothing was done to
code, so it looks like I'll have top redo all the plumbing and
electrical wiring. Among other things, there is zero power upstairs in
the loft, which I'll need to fix.
August 18, 2000
Finished the sub-floor! At times we were stuck digging trenches in the
rocks to put in the floor joists. What a project. I went with 14 inch
I beams, because of the 14 foot span I had to cross. We then ran one
32 foot pressure treated beam all the way across the dome. This
enabled us to box off a section, and then fill in the ends with more I
beams. Once this was done, we covered it with a single large piece of
plastic, (for radon mitigation) and then a layer of 3/4 inch
plywood. It feels so good to be able to walk on a flat surface. I was
getting tired of walking through the uneven, craters left by
I finally wound up ripping out all the plumbing and rewiring what was
there. While at it, I left an extra drain pipe, so I can add a half
bathroom to the main dome if I ever want to. It was better to put it
in before I sealed up the floor. What prompted all of this was the
discovery that the kitchen drain pipes actually went uphill, which
wasn't very effective. Now all the plumbing is done to code, with PVC
drain pipe. When I got the new Toto "Drake" toilet working, I could
only marvel at finally having indoor plumbing again.
Sept 18, 2000
I'm exhausted, but almost there. All that is remaining is some tongue
and groove (3 1/2 x 3/8 inch pine) to be put on the walls, and a
3 1/2 hardwood #1 Oak floor. As I've gotten the walls put up, I ran
wires for both a 24VDC lines (for lighting), and 120VAC off the
inverter for outlets. To make things visually easier, I ran the 120VAC
through the bottom of the studs, and the 24VDC through the tops.
Because I built curved walls, to match what was there, I used 2x4s for
the studs, and then covered them with a 3/8 inch plywood skin. This
skin was to not only make things stronger (I wanted extra support for
the loft), but to make it easier to nail the 3/4 x 3 1/2 inch tongue
and groove pine strips. The pine matches some of the existing walls,
and being light, helps keeps things less dark looking.
It's been nice to have all the plumbing all working, as well as the
new outlets and lights. Other than the comfort of knowing everything
is working and up to code, it has taken alot of the stress out of
living in a construction zone.
Oct 18, 2000
Hopefully by this date, I'll be done! :-) What's left is to install
the propane backup heater, reinstall the wood stove, and to put the
hardwood floor in.