Skip to content

2018 Update

September 11, 2018

Some have wondered if we are still alive & kicking in our mountain home. YES!
All is good here in the Rocky Mountains. The house is still performing beautifully as planned. We are in process of installing a 2nd solar array & hope to have some more data to post in a few months on how well we are conserving energy, making energy, & living in/using our lovely thermal mass tire bale home. The plan is also to post some new pics.
Our other website has recently been redesigned for simplicity & faster load time (less pics).
Stay tuned for more data……..


Changing faces…..outside

August 27, 2013

This summer our project has been to change out the grey gravel on our courtyard to flagstone. The reason we decided to do this is amusing: Our dogs “fly” out the front door and gravel gets caught between their toes thus as they fly, they toss gravel into the windows and glass front door. We did not want to have the added stress of replacing windows or front door, so we went with flagstone. We will monitor the temperatures over this next winter to see if there is a drop in overall radiant temperature due to this change. The grey gravel extended our passive solar heating capabilities a bit, which makes the house warmer in the winter (which is ideal). The flagstone will (like the gravel) extend our thermal mass somewhat.

Hagar tire bale home, new flagstone front entry 2013

Hagar tire bale home, new flagstone front entry 2013

Presenting at IEEE Green Technologies Conference, April 4-5, 2013 in Denver

February 25, 2013

We will be presenting data from our paper “An Examination of Multiple MicroGeneration Technologies used within an Experimental Home”, based on the data that you have seen posted here on our blog, at IEEE Green Technologies Conference, April 4-5 in Denver, Colorado.

If you would like more information on this conference, the keynote speakers, or to take a look at some of the other papers that will be presented, here is a link  IEEE Green Technologies Conference.

2012 Energy Use and Production Compared to Other Homes

December 12, 2012

So I promised in January (!) that I’d supply more data on our energy use and production. I hope that no one has been holding their breath!
Here is a sample of our energy production Jan-Oct 2012 using our single 6 panel (230 Watts each) PV array.  Yes, 2011-2012 was considered a very mild winter with little or no moisture or snow but LOTS of SUN!

Hagar Tire Bale Home Energy Produced Jan-Oct 2012

Hagar Tire Bale Home Energy Produced Jan-Oct 2012

And, here is a snapshot of indoor/outdoor temperature comparisons (in Fahrenheit) for Jan-Feb 2012.  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Temperature Comparison Jan-Feb 2012 for Hagar Tire Bale Home

Temperature Comparison Jan-Feb 2012 for Hagar Tire Bale Home

As you can see, the graph illustrates how steady the temperatures inside our home can be (and quite comfortable too). (Click on the image to enlarge it.)  We began our days bundled up in sweats and were often found wearing t-shirts and shorts by noon each day.  As the sun set near 4 pm, we were back in our sweats.

Here is a snapshot of 3 different types of homes and their electric usage in kWh. Interesting comparison.  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

3 different homes and their electric use in kWh for 2012

3 different homes and their electric use in kWh for 2012

What other data do you feel would be meaningful to illustrate the energy possibilities or efficiencies of our home?

Oh humidity

February 25, 2012

Recently, I shared an exchange with someone who built a tire bale extension to his straw bale home. Here is a link to his home picture history.
Tire bale homes HOLD HUMIDITY. So if you’re planning to build in a geographic location that is known for humidity, there are some things you should consider changing.
For instance, we have no HVAC–heating air conditioning system–to physically MOVE air which can help remove humidity. Yet, our home exchanges 37% of the air at least 3 times a day–more in summer when the windows are open more.
Second, our windows are NOT slanted on the south. Our windows are floor to ceiling straight up and down but, even our windows condense when temperatures drop down to 5-degrees F or below. I keep microfiber clothes in them to help keep the water away from the window seals. I chose Weathershield windows since they seemed to be the best built and guaranteed for the longest. Also, these windows are made in the U.S.
Last, we chose NOT to put an indoor planter (which in some of these houses is used to treat grey water). We do have 6 full sized trees and a number of other plants in small portable (roll around) planters. Plants put a lot of humidity in the air, which is good for our skin and noses.
So, consider these things as you approach your building project. And, seek advice from others who have built these structures before you finalize your designs.

Two More Tire Bale Homes Under Construction in Colorado

October 20, 2011

Hello world! I’ve been notified of 2 more tire bale homes under construction in Colorado and wanted to share the info with anyone interested in building a home of this type.
First, I would like to let everyone know that our home is toasty warm once again this fall/winter, and was delightfully cool this past summer. Given that our solar system was working hard for us, our electric bill was never more than $20 (actual kwH) and we had none of all that noise and pollution from an HVAC system. We entertained many guests this summer, one of whom has one of the homes under construction.
Notice that each home is different? That’s the beauty of these kinds of homes.
Without further ramblings from me, check out these homes.

Here is the first house Mikey designed and it is mostly complete
Here is a recent home completed that Mikey designed and, they recently received their Certificate of Occupancy (CO letter)!.
And, here is one of Mikey’s latest designs
OK, this is the last one that I know of….to date.

Here is a flikr stream of our progression

I hope that you found Michael Shealy (Mikey), Touch the Earth Construction (

Helpful Books on Passive Solar Homes

January 25, 2011

Just wanted to let everyone know about a few books that I’ve found recently that are very helpful in understanding WHY to build your passive solar tire bale home a specific way; why to do your research before you design or build, and why to use an experienced architect or designer in these types of houses. I’ve been doing research for our book, which I cannot tell you when will be complete, only that I am working on it.

So here goes………all great references and all available through (I bought mine used and saved some money.)

The Solar House Passive Heating and Cooling by Daniel D. Chiras, 2002, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT, ISBN 1-913498-12-1 paperback. This book is helpful in understanding how to supply heat sustainably, energy efficient design, indoor air quality, types of wood stoves, windows(!) and their coverings, orientation and so much more.

The Passive Solar House The Complete Guide to Heating and Cooling Your Home, by James Kachahadorian, 1997, 2006, also published by Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT, ISBN 1-93392037-03-7. This book has some of the most basic things to understand when undertaking a passive solar home. It also has some of the best formulas needed for this type of architecture. This has been one of my best resources!

Solar House Basics by Peter Van Dresser, Passive Solar House Basics,, 1977, 1979, 1995, Peter built his first solar home in the early 1950s. This is my 2nd best reference for passive solar homes. I love the illustrations and the brevity but all the very good information.

Passive Solar Buildings Solar Heat Technologies: Fundamentals and Applications, edited by J. Douglas Balcomb, 1992, MIT Press. (part of a 10-volume set). Balcomb is one of the key figures in many areas of passive solar heating and cooling technologies and on the formulas that many architects must know when designing these types of homes. He also works with the Passive Solar Industries Council. There is some information on performance modeling in this book that may also be found in materials from the American Solar Energy Society (ASES).

As I reflect back on our building experience, I have found that if I had a checklist of very important data to keep in mind when designing our home and then building it, we would rate about 80% of doing what these authors have recommended for this type of architecture.
For instance, there is a sort of checklist outlined in a chapter in the last book called “Elements of a Passive Subsystem”. Check this out as you design or build your passive solar tire bale home. You will find that it will save you money in the long run.

Happy research and building!