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Let's consider the home first. Experience shows that "well insulated," conventional homes in the northern United States take approximately ten watts of heat per square foot. So, a 1200-square-foot, well insulated, conventional home takes about 12,000 watts of heat. But a Monolithic Dome with that square footage can be heated with approximately 2 watts of heat per square foot. But heating systems are not designed for that small of an output. Therefore, we recommend using small electric heaters scattered throughout the house, or better yet, a circulating hot water heat system in the floor. Typically, we use 1/4-inch tubes every two feet in the floor and a conventional 40 or 50 gallon water heater to heat the water. Obviously, the other rules of layout utilizing manifolds and pumps are needed. The heating system does not have to be very significant, but the floor under it should be insulated.

Cooling in the south half of the U.S. can easily be accomplished with one ton of air conditioning per 1000 square feet of home. Air-conditioning systems usually start at a minimum of 1.5 tons, so a Monolithic Dome up to 1500 square feet requires a single 1.5 ton unit. It's sometimes argued that such a structure requires more than 1.5 tons because it's cheaper. In reality we need to use the 1.5-ton unit because it will run more and control humidity better. So the rule of thumb is 1 ton per 1000 square feet. Obviously, someone with a cooking kitchen for the harvest crew may need more, but for a normal home the one ton per 1000 square feet works very well and requires only the purchase of a 1.5-ton unit -- the smallest and least expensive that's commercially made.


Maranatha Christian Church in Mont Belvieu, Texas has 70 tons of air-conditioning for a 40,000 square foot sanctuary. They also have more capacity than they need. This is also verified by their $1200 to $1500 per month power bill for hot, summer months. In general, it is far better to operate the cooling system more hours, both before and after a meeting, than it is to have a huge system that turns on for just half of the meeting, as it does in churches with excessive cooling systems. At Abundant Life, theirs goes on and off all through meetings -- on for a few minutes then off for quite a while. It's more efficient to run a smaller unit continuously.

Again, it's extremely difficult for HVAC engineers because there is little history on cooling Monolithic Domes. So, their "necks" are on the line. They are extremely worried about under-designing and upsetting the client. On the other hand, when they over-design they cost the client enormous amounts of money for initial installation, as well as ongoing energy and maintenance. With these oversized systems, the demand charge (charge incurred by simply turning the equipment on and creating the demand) can be larger than the actual operation charge. Experience has to be the teacher. Experience on these large, occupied Monolithic Domes shows that one ton of cooling per 1000 square feet of space is a good rule of thumb.


Determining the size of heating and cooling systems for Monolithic Domes offers some really special challenges. These challenges require some serious original thinking. Factors that mean almost nothing in conventional structures are important in Monolithic Domes.

For instance, radiant is a large portion of the natural heat transfer of the Monolithic Dome. But in conventional buildings it is a relatively small percentage. Experience is really about all we have to go on. The experience of heating and cooling conventional buildings is well documented and has attained almost "scriptural" status. But that experience cannot be transferred automatically to Monolithic Domes


Experience has taught us that in commercial buildings one ton per 1000 square feet also works well. The argument has been made that much more is needed for occupied buildings such as churches, because of body heat. That argument would be valid if the churches were occupied for hours and hours and hours by thousands of people. But for sessions lasting only three hours, one ton per 1000 square feet suffices. The dome absorbs body heat, raising the temperature slowly and slightly during the service. Once services end, the heat is removed.

Over-designing cooling systems is a repetitive problem in the construction of Monolithic Dome churches. One of the first churches we built is in South Bend, Indiana. Its sanctuary seats 3000 people and it was cooled very adequately with one, 20- ton unit. That's approximately one ton for every 1500 square feet. But, when the church began twelve-hour camp meetings, a 50-ton unit was installed to handle the additional body heat. Had the church not initiated these lengthy sessions, installation of additional cooling would not have been necessary.

This is again verified by the Abundant Life Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Their air conditioning system is over-designed. They have approximately 65,000 square feet of sanctuary and 180 tons of air-conditioning. Unfortunately, their HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) engineers consulted only their "Bible," the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers, Inc.) Guide, to determine their cooling system size. But the ASHRAE has no experience with Monolithic Domes. The cooling bill for Abundant Life Church runs $1000 to $1500 per month. Working backwards from the actual cooling load, it's easy to see they had over-designed by at least double if not triple. Experience with conventional structures calls for one ton of cooling per 333 square feet. But our experience with Monolithic Domes proves that is far too much air-conditioning.