by TJ Marie
A description of what an Earthship is and the benefits of having one.
Word Count: 1,270
An Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and recycled materials (such as earth-filled tires), designed and marketed by Earthship Biotecture of Taos, New Mexico. The term is a registered trademark of Michael Reynolds, founder of Earthship Biotecture. We have not changed the type of housing that is generally accepted in society in over a hundred years or more. With the way our economy is run by Big Business world wide this type of model home would absolutely make a dent in the pockets of the ones making all the money off of the current model of homes. These homes would cost about the same as the current model to build, in the long run there would be no utility bills or there be a very small bill; an example so you get an idea of the cost would be about one hundred dollars a year. Working as a machine to shelter you, feed you, and make you and the surrounding environment a healthier place to live.
To start your home the first thing would be to lay out the area for the Earthship through measurement of the Pythagorean theory. The Pythagorean Theory is when three sides of a right triangle, the side opposite the right angle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. This is important to do at the beginning so your house does not get lopsided or look strange, strings can be laid down so you know exactly where the house is going.
Next is to level the area where the tires will be laid down; this does not need to be done all at once, it can be done as the tires are ready then the area will need to be flat. As this is being done, someone else can be pounding tires. Pounding tires is where you get a tire, fill it up with dirt, pieces of concrete, cardboard, or any type of material that would be good for absorbing heat. The best place to put the tire wall is where it will get the most heat from the sun so thermal mass is created. Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. This will be your heating and cooling system for the home, the heat will be absorbed into the tires until it is needed and will be released. There will also be can and bottle walls created with your tire walls. The cement is placed and formed in the area for the wall with the cans and bottles used as filler. If you can get colored glass bottles for the walls in the kitchen and bathroom is usually where they use them, it does look like a stained glass design is created which is quite beautiful; of course you can do this with any wall in the house.
There is a water system built into this home, which uses rain water or snow depending on your climate and this system uses the water four times through the home. The path of the water travels after being caught from roof catchment systems and channeled via silt catches into cisterns. Cisterns gravity feed a DC pump and filter panels (WOM) which is the Water Organizing Module. A Pump and filter panel (WOM) pushes water into a pressure tank and conventional household water pressure is the result. The Toilet is separated from the drainage system of all other household plumbing fixtures. Water is used in a conventional way, such as bathing or washing dishes. Next, this water is then drained into linear biologically developed interior greywater treatment and containment systems.
The greenhouse garden can be done a few different ways based on what you like. You can have one area in the home dedicated to just grow your food or you can have plants throughout the home. While the build starts it is a good idea to start the garden with hardy plants, one example is aloe Vera; you want to start off with the hardier plants then add the others later. The Reynolds crew in their discovery of building these houses has discovered everything they have tried to grow has been successful, so sky’s the limit on what can be grown as food or even plants for beauty such as flowers. One thing to keep in mind, do your own research or have someone knowledgeable in plants to help if you are not familiar with them because some plants will grow well together while others will not, you basically will want to plan your garden before planting it. A good way to do this is make a list of the plants you want, from there figure out the best way to lay them out in your garden; as long as you can create the proper environment for growth you can grow anything you want.
In the Reynold’s crew, Earthships produce their own electricity with a prepackaged photovoltaic / wind power system; I have come across others who have experimented with other sources of electricity. For example, there have been people who created their own their own devices to extract their own electricity; I just mention this because there are endless opportunities to create ways getting electricity and living in a green home you can still have WiFi and tv. I am going to concentrate on the Reynold’s experience with electricity here. Energy is stored in batteries and supplied to your electrical outlets throughout the home. Electrical energy is "harvested" from the sun and the wind. Photovoltaic panels convert the sun's energy into DC current electricity and is stored in "golf-cart" type batteries. An Earthship Power Organizing Module draws the electricity from the batteries, inverts some of it from AC electricity and supplies it to the home. The POM can accept electricity from a gasoline generator, hooked up to the city energy grid, or any other source that is available in your location. The POM has been created by the Reynold’s crew, which is a self contained organizer and distributor of electricity. It is available as a user friendly factory assembled unit that simply screws on your wall, your local electrician conventionally wires your house to this unit. It takes the custom design and unlimited expense out of residential renewable energy electrical systems. Some Eartships will still use electricity for their stove and fridge or you could go totally off the grid and use a solar oven and fridge with solar power as well; there have also been many who have figured out other ways to use these appliances off the grid, do some research and choose the option best for you.
In conclusion, an Earthship is an ideal home for moving forward in living in a better and more efficient home. There may be some things that many of us will need to learn which can be done. There are different ways where you can get one of these homes built, you can call or contact the Reynolds crew through email to pay them to go to your location to have one built or you can attend the Earthship Academy, learning how to build this type of home, gather your own crew and build it yourself. I feel this is the next step in housing, which will be affordable, cleaner for the environment, and much healthier for us to live in. If anyone would like to learn more about Earthships or have a build in their area or more info on the Academy, here is the website http://earthship.com/