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Energy conservation: Underground home



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Groveland Township resident Ron Stead with his underground home. Photo by David Fleet. (click for larger version)
August 03, 2011 - Groveland Twp.- Ron Stead has spent the last 24 years underground.

During the 1970s, Stead agreed with economic forecasters that oil production was going to peak between 2010 and 2020.

"No more cheap oil," said Stead, 59.

So in 1985, with plans from Formwork, Stead, along with assistance from various contractors, constructed an in-ground home.

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The 2,600 square-foot, three bedroom structure was built like an upside down swimming pool, said Stead.

"The shell or frame is built with rerod and Burlap," he said. "Over that shell we sprayed on 150 yards of concrete. There's another 150 yards of concrete in the footing. Once the shell was up it was covered in 18,000 yards of clay and sand—with a depth ranging from 5 to 16 feet thick."

"Now I mow my roof twice a year."

Stead said in the mid-Michigan area the frostline is 48 inches. At that level, the temperature of the earth is at 54 degrees year around.

"That's why I can heat the house with just a small fireplace in the winter and run a fan in the summer for cooling," he said. "About one face cord of wood per year heats my home."

Stead uses electricity for lighting, along with a bank of windows in the front of the home. The interior features a domed family room, kitchen and office on the lower level. The upper level includes bedrooms, a loft and an exit. The house was completed in 1987

Stead's commitment to the environment and responsible energy use continues in his occupation as a spokesperson for Ecology Products, Aqua Air and Formworks.

"The biggest return for the money is blown in attic insulation," said Stead, who provides home energy analysis.

"I've been in a lot of attics, most are at R-19. Today they recommend R-60."

Other areas of heat loss include walls and windows, followed by a lack of weather stripping. Details: 248-343-2866.

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