Survivalists say if you’re ever lost in the wilderness the first thing you need to do is ensure you have enough heat to last the night. So maybe this should have been part 1!
There are many heating options but based on my personal experience and learning, while creating off-grid geodesic dome living there are three sustainable “goto” technologies to this date.
First is propane. Technically this is not off-grid since it’s a fossil fuel that is very much like centralized distribution. But here you are strictly paying for the fuel you use, not infrastructure and not 3rd party delivery (if you pick it up yourself). With propane you can provide heat and it’s a cooking fuel and you can make hot-water. It’s hard to beat for convenience. And it’s proven to be mobile as you find it on most RV’s.
Second on my list is wood heat. Wood fuel is everywhere so heating would be next to nothing. But there are a couple big disadvantages. You have to deal with smoke which requires a stovepipe and because of the heat you need wall clearances. There are a few wood heaters on the market which are relatively portable but the issues are the same. And as with standard wood stoves you can’t thermostatically control the heat level in your space. Finally, most users end up losing their heat at 3am. This makes mornings a bit of a task if you have to restart the fire.
The best heat source in my books (and most ecofriendly and cheapest) is passive solar used with thermal mass. The technology on how this works is slowly seeping into the general population and the terms thermal mass, annualized solar heat gain and passive design are becoming better understood amongst designers and builders alike.
In the GeoStudio tiny dome of the future, the structure will be in-place and it will be designed with solar gain in mind by placing the right amount of glazing at specific angles to let the sunshine in. The floor will have thermal mass built in (adobe, concrete, masonry, almost any rock and yes even hemp crete) and the heat will be sequestered well below ground in July for wintertime use. For sustainability, costs and maintenance passive solar wins hands down.
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Gilles Leclair is the founder of GeoStudios. Somewhat eccentric, fairly environmentalist, politically aware, he believes the world should have more off-grid communities... many more.