Image: Maegan Tintari
Earth homes, earthen homes, earth berms or earth sheltered homes, no two seem to look alike. However, all are well insulated and economical in the long run. In fact, many earth home dwellers in the colder U.S. states report not turning their electric heat on until mid-December. Before you begin digging or purchase one, you need to consider most lenders are not willing to mortgage an earth home, but there have been exceptions. Some institutions are willing to finance in-house.
Lättenstrasse estate in Dietikon by Peter Vetsch
The earth forms three sides of most earth homes, and contrary to popular belief, they are often well-lit. But they do obviously require electric lights at all times for the rooms near the back of the dwellings with the exception of those which utilize skylights and solar tubes. A dehumidifier is often used year round to combat moisture, which often accumulates quickly when the windows are opened. Wood burning stoves work well in earth homes, often requiring less than a cord of wood per fall/winter season due to their superior insulation.
Contrary to popular belief, earth homes are not necessarily dark and dreary inside. The front of the house is exposed and usually faces south, which allows sunlight to heat the interior. Floor plans are usually arranged so bedrooms and common areas share the light and heat from the southern exposure. Northern portions of the house benefit from strategically placed skylights, which also help with ventilation.
Thomas E. Keyes 1950 residence in Rochester MN. designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
Advantages include, but are not limited to: optimal insulation resulting in prime energy and CO2 savings, being virtually storm proof, fire protection, efficient lighting, provide excellent protection against blasts and nuclear fallout and they're environmentally friendly, especially in regards to rooftop landscaping and drainage.
Source: Google Images
Image: Mother Earth News
Some of the disadvantages are the difficulty in financing mentioned earlier. High humidity can lead to mold, mildew and radon accumulation. Local building codes or zoning may provide a challenge. Lastly, when building, decor plans must be kept in mind to work with rounded walls and unique dimensions. Obviously, there are far more advantages, and the vast majority of earth home owners are very happy with their decision to think outside the box.