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CIRCULAR HOUSE CAN CUT CORNERS ON UTILITY COSTS

Question: I am on a limited budget, but I want to build a large (2,500-square-foot) energy efficient house. Are the contemporary circular house kits very efficient? I want to help build it to lower the cost. - Y.F.

Answer: Circular house kits are ideal for a do-it-yourself builder/helper on a limited budget. House plans range from 800-square-foot single-story to 4,000-square-foot multi-story designs. Prices start at $12,000. Heating and cooling costs should be about 25 percent less than a typical rectangular house.

Most circular houses are not true circles. They are a series of 4- or 8-foot-wide insulated 2x4 or 2x6 wall panels that create a circular appearance. A circular design provides unique room layouts and shapes.

Assemble various size strong insulated panels (some with built-in windows and doors) to create any house design. Most kits are designed to require no interior support walls, so room layouts are limitless. As your family's size and needs change, it is simple to modify the interior room layout.

Several workmen can erect the walls and attach the self-supporting roof over a weekend. Some complete kits include all panels, windows, doors, hardware, adhesives, etc., literally everything needed. Many manufacturers send a technician along to supervise the basic shell erection.

Most circular houses are completely surrounded by large decks/porches for greater integration of indoor and outdoor living. A large roof overhang (in all directions) completely shades all the windows from the hot summer sun but lets in the winter sun for passive solar heating.

Since each room's exterior wall is comprised of several panels at different angles, interior room layouts are interesting. Choosing a design with 8-foot-wide panels allows you to place furniture flat against all walls.

Circular houses are inherently energy efficient. They typically have about 20 percent less exterior wall surface area than a similar-size rectangular house. Since the kits are manufactured under tight quality control standards in a factory, they are airtight when completed.

The circular shape also lets the cold winter winds flow smoothly over it. This reduces heating bills and chilly drafts. By installing efficient casement windows, there is ample natural cross ventilation in each room.

One unique circular house design is built on a pedestal foundation. For energy efficiency and fire safety, the bedrooms are often on the first floor and the living area on the second story. The kits come complete with spiral staircases and super-insulated floors and roof panels.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 673 listing manufacturers of circular houses and kits, five floor plan layouts and exterior diagrams (1,300 to 4,000 square feet), prices and construction and material specifications. Please include $2 and a self-addressed envelope. Write to James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244

Question: Each spring, I start several flats of annual flowers from seeds. I use several two-tube fluorescent fixtures above them in my utility room. About how much does it cost to keep the lights on? - G.T.

Answer: Unless you start a lot of flowers, you probably spend more on electricity than you would buying the plants at a nursery. Most 4-foot-long fluorescent tubes are 40 watts. Including the ballast, estimate about 100 watts for each two-tube fixture to make calculations simple.

For each 10 hours of time, the electric cost is just your local electric rate. At a rate for 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs about 8 cents.