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Retaining Heat Through Earth Sheltered Homes

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Retaining Heat Through Earth Sheltered Homes Katie Drew, Ben Hagen, Alex Pien, Ian Ulmer, Devin Vanderwood Mr. Greg Macgowen Camas High School. Method

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Retaining Heat Through Earth Sheltered Homes

Katie Drew, Ben Hagen, Alex Pien,

Ian Ulmer, Devin Vanderwood

Mr. Greg Macgowen

Camas High School


In order to convince the public of the unknown benefits of the earth-sheltered home, we conducted an experiment to try and discover which type/amount of insulation performed the best in retaining the heat that was created. The question being answered in this experiment is which type of insulating material is able to retain the most heat. We created model homes, one with a concrete shell, one with ½ inch of insulation, one with one inch of insulation, one with no sort of insulation and one created out of a joint compound, and buried them in 6 inches of dirt surrounding each home, but not on top of the home. We then heated up five evenly sized rocks in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This represents the heat that will be retained. Each of these rocks was placed in a different house and an initial temperature was taken. Every half-hour, we took another temperature reading and recorded for six hours (until dark). Once experiment was completed, we converted temperatures into Celsius and subtracted the last temperature from the first in each different home. This final number represented the amount of heat lost over the period of time. Lastly, we compared results.

Discussion and Conclusion

From our single experiment, it seemed that the concrete was able to retain the most heat out of the four we tested, only losing six degrees Celsius in all. Although the concrete kept the heat the longest, it was not the warmest at the end of our experiment. The warmest, was in fact, the model with the ½ inch thick insulation, being able to stay at the temperature of 15.7 degrees but took the second furthest drop of 14.13 degrees, only second to the model with no insulation. Continuing, the concrete had the lowest starting temperature but in fact, had it rise after the second reading. This may be because its first reading was rushed or just because it gained warmth from the ground. Nonetheless, the concrete because it gained warmth from the ground.


The group’s objective is to design the most energy efficient, yet cost efficient, underground home. The issue of extreme energy usage due to heating and cooling homes could be solved by placing the house underground. The house would be more efficient because the earth has a stable temperature that would insulate the house during various weather conditions. Depending on our research, all people could possibly be affected in most, if not all, parts of the world. The group plans to experiment which material/insulation will retain the heat the longest to determine the best way to build an earth-sheltered home. It has been proven that this underground technology is extremely beneficial to energy efficiency and, in turn, our planet.

Nonetheless, the concrete model was the thickest, most solid model of them all so the heat had little places to escape. The others had more air pockets that the air could escape into, and reside in the walls. Throughout our experiment we ran into issues that hindered with our experiment. The biggest issue we ran into was that our fifth variable, a joint compound, was not only still wet after a week of drying, but cracked in the mold and when broke apart while trying to remove it from the wood. This left us with only four variables to work with. Also, we ran into the issue that there was no effective way to measure the temperature. We only had one thermometer so we had to rotate through our four different models. Even though there are many programs that were capable, none were in our price range. Other minor issues that we ran into included rough measurements of depth of each model, a crack in the concrete and the problem that we, with the thermometer available to us, could not measure all variables at once so the temperatures would vary from the time is was supposed to be recorded at.In the future, we will expand our experiment so that underground homes become a common occurrence in the nation. We would first propose our findings to local business leaders and contractors in the area to see if they would like to invest in our findings. We then would go to or local representatives to see if we will be able to get a grant from the state to see if we could get the money for materials to build our underground home. After receiving the grant from the state, we would work with the local contractors to build a house and practice some full-scale experiments on the house. We would propose our findings to the state once again and then go to the National government to see if they would like to invest in this technology. Once receiving that support, we would try to sell our idea throughout the country to contractors so that the homes would be marketed throughout the country, and then the world. Our ultimate goal will be to create a whole city that uses this power and will be one of the most energy efficient cities on the face of the planet.


In our experiment in which we compared temperatures of different insulated boxes that were partially buried, we used four types of material: A box made of concrete, a box with ½ inch insulation, a box with one inch of insulation and a box with no insulation. The concrete model had a starting temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. From there, it rose up to 23.1 degrees b before dropping all the way down to 14 degrees Celsius at the last measurement at 9:00 PM. From the first measurement at 3:00 PM, to the last, the concrete lost a total of 6 degrees Celsius. Our next variable was the box with ½ inch insulation. This box started at a temperature of 29.83 degrees Celsius. From there, in dropped to 21 degrees at 6:00 PM, all the way to 15.7 degrees at 9:00 PM. The difference in temperature is approximately 14.13 degrees Celsius. Continuing, our third portion of our experiment consisted of the wooden box with insulation of 1 inch. The starting temperature of this model was at 25.3 degrees Celsius. The final measurement was placed at 14.4 degrees leaving an approximate difference of 10.9 degrees Celsius. Our final variable consisted of a model home with no insulation. Its starting temperature was approximately 28.8 degrees Celsius and dropped all the way down to 13 degrees leaving a difference of about 15.8 degrees.


The first time you hear the words “Underground Homes” you probably will end up thinking of a dark, dank home that has dirt as its carpet. In truth, an underground home, or Earth-sheltered homes as they are more commonly called, is a home that is only partially underground and has untold benefits. Some include protection from high winds and fire, lower energy bills and a home that has little effect on the outside environment. The main secret has to do with the retaining of heat. Soil keeps a constant temperature of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This would mean in the winter, you would only have to increase the heat by about 20 degrees. When the temperature outside is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you would still only need 20 degrees of heat compared to a 50 degrees Fahrenheit increase in an ordinary home. With an increased use of alternative energy sources, such as solar power, more money can be saved.


CEF, WSU Vancouver, GK12, Mr. Greg Macgowen, Miss Laura Friedenberg, Mrs. Jennifer Dean, Home Depot