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Periscope, mirrors, magnifying lens for undergound home

 
Katrin Kerns
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I was looking up ideas on how to bring light into an underground home, when I ran across an unrelated video on YouTube. It was on how to make a periscope, you know a simple kids project with two mirrors and a milk carton. But it got me thinking, why couldn't you make periscopic (is that even a word?) windows?

You know, make a window sized periscope where you want your underground "Windows" to be.

You would probably need to use magnifying lenses in it to enlarge the image to be the same size as your "Window" but it shouldn't be that difficult should it? If it worked not only would you bring light into your under ground home, but you would also bring the view from up top outside, into your home. Just like a normal window you would be able to see outside anytime you wanted as well as having an unobtrusive way to view nature since you moving up to look out your "Window" shouldn't disturb any birds or animals outside.

So, am I crazy or does this actually make sense to anyone else? Come on people, help me out here, point out the flaws in my logic... or if there aren't any flaws tell me how great an idea this is.
 
Brian Knight
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It is a great idea. Sounds like a better version of a Sun tunnel. Be careful with air sealing as it will create a very strong draft that will want to suck the conditioned air out of the home.
 
Katrin Kerns
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Brian Knight wrote:It is a great idea. Sounds like a better version of a Sun tunnel. Be careful with air sealing as it will create a very strong draft that will want to suck the conditioned air out of the home.

Oh, good point. But if the "Window is embedded in a cob style wall, then you shouldn't have any trouble with drafts since the periscope part should be completely sealed anyway to keep moisture out.
 
Ernie Wisner
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Ernie Wisner February 8, 2012 7:57:11 PM PST
It would work Fine Katrina the expensive bit would be the mirrors. you will need some rather large ones to gather enough light to beam it into your house. but then if you are going underground you will know already the prices of doing so.
 
Katrin Kerns
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Ernie Wisner wrote:Ernie Wisner February 8, 2012 7:57:11 PM PST
It would work Fine Katrina the expensive bit would be the mirrors. you will need some rather large ones to gather enough light to beam it into your house. but then if you are going underground you will know already the prices of doing so.

Thanks much for your feedback, but my name is Katrin, not Katrina... there is only one A in my name.
 
Katrin Kerns
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Ernie Wisner wrote:yes i do see that now that you point it out. now i will never be able to get the extra A out of your name. so please let me know when i dont get rid of it cause i am sure i will continue to call you by name.

No worries, I generally circumvention the mistakes with my name by going by Kat.
 
Ernie Wisner
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I can live with that Kat I really didn't notice the misspell and i am sorry. problem is that once my hands get it in there its hard to get them to change. ok you are going to want large mirrors and windows to bring in enough light . you can get magnification mirrors that will intensify the light and that may be what you would be looking for. the other thing is the very large light tubes they make for factories. Some of them are 30 inches across, bloody costly however.
 
Andrew Parker
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It ought to work, but don't turn away from commercial options, especially if you can get a good price.

I installed those tube skylights in my addition/remodel. They were not particularly expensive, but I realize that expense is relative. I used the inexpensive (relatively) velux 10" sun tunnel upstairs, two to light up a dark 45' hallway (I could have used just one, they are very bright) from Lowe's (I just checked the pricing and it is nearly double now what it was five years ago).

I used a 21" (I am not sure it is available anymore) from a local specialty shop for a 12' run down to the kitchen on the first floor. I had to cobble that one together. The top and bottom were from the residential kit (it only had flexible tubing) and I purchased three four foot rigid extensions from a commercial kit. I needed the rigid tube because of the long run from the roof to the first floor. The flexible tube would have scattered that light and I would have lost much of the brightness before it made it to the kitchen. It also works great. It is much brighter than the 2'x4' skylight it replaced (It lay on a flat roof that we reinforced and used as the floor for a second story addition. I designed a chase to accommodate the skylight. Fortunately, it fit quite naturally into the floorplan). I could have possibly used the 17" without problem, and I would not have needed to cobble together mixed and matched parts.

If you aren't going through more than 4' to 8', you could easily get by using the 10"-14" diameter tubes and 17" for up to 12'. Placement in the center of the room will give better light distribution, but if you want a windowy feel, you could put it in a brightly painted alcove filled with plants and singing birds, and maybe one of those little water fountains and perhaps hang a panel of stained glass in front.

If you are going to build your own tube, or tunnel, you will need to get the most highly reflective material you can afford, to line it with, even white paint or aluminum foil, if nothing else. Also, build it so you can maintain it (such as clean, replace or upgrade the coating or liner), if necessary. This would be particularly important for underground housing.

For underground/earth sheltered/basement lighting, I have considered using a trench, or giant window well, or skinny courtyard, covered with greenhouse material, I guess it would be considered a really deep greenhouse, and have windows opening into it. It wouldn't be particularly bright without some help.

I have seen fixed reflectors and heliostats used to concentrate light onto shaded windows and skylights. They can be placed strategically anywhere in the yard. They would more efficient if you were able to adjust their angle periodically to match the angle of the sun. Here is a homemade motorized one (not mine, I'm not that clever or handy) that tracks the sun throughout the day and can change targets:

http://www.iwilltry.org/b/projects/build-a-heliostat-for-solar-heating-and-lighting/
 
Katrin Kerns
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Andrew Parker wrote:
I have seen fixed reflectors and heliostats used to concentrate light onto shaded windows and skylights. They can be placed strategically anywhere in the yard. They would more efficient if you were able to adjust their angle periodically to match the angle of the sun. Here is a homemade motorized one (not mine, I'm not that clever or handy) that tracks the sun throughout the day and can change targets:

http://www.iwilltry.org/b/projects/build-a-heliostat-for-solar-heating-and-lighting/

Coolness, thanks for all the info and the link. Very informative.
 
Kirk Mobert
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What you originally described reminds me of what is called a "camera obscura". They don't bring in much light, and need to be viewed in a darkened room, but they will project a perfect image of the outside world onto a wall or screen of your choosing.
There was a camera obscura building at Burning Man years ago that I pretty much just lived in for a few days. It was a pyramid shape and to get in, there was a tunnel that wrapped around the building, after a couple turns, it was quite dark, so you could come and go without wrecking the viewing conditions inside. It had a periscope top that could be rotated 360deg and it projected down onto a circular, flat white plate. The viewing surface was around 2 1/2 or 3 feet in circumference and the image was crystal clear.
If we had some photographic paper and a shutter on the top, we could have taken some FANTASTIC photos.

This arrangement WON'T light up a space.. If you're looking to bring in natural lighting, the light pipes described above are the ticket.. But I could see setting up a camera obscura somewhere just for funsies. They are VERY cool and good for MANY wasted hours.
 
Devon Olsen
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one thing to consider is that underground homes dont have walls or a high roof to block the sun in the first place, therefore an underground home can be designed to let in more light than a traditional home in the first place
 
Gail Moore
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Location: south central Appalachia, southwest Virginia, US zone 6/7
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Hi Kat,

Your brainstorming and creative ideas sound great. The other folks have added some wonderful input.

Suntube type items can also be angled and run through the top of a wall, instead of cutting a hole in the roof.

In mike oehler's $50 and Up Underground Housingbook, he talks about using mirrors in the uphill patio, as well, to increase views over the top of the building and down the hill.

Have you seen the various ways which Mike and others developed to bring light, air and views into an Earth integrated shelter? They are in his book and DVD set.

These allow for light air and views all the while keeping water traveling away from the dwelling.

These are most of them, perhaps Mike or someone else might add the others:

Uphill Patio
Sidehill Excavation, called a Sidehill Patio
Sunscoops
Clerestory
Gable
Extended Gable
Hollywood Wing
Royer Foyer
Wrap Arounds
Offset Rooms, which allow for a window wall
Lateral Window Wells
Connected Greenhouse
and Elevated Roof

many fun ways to bring light into our homes.

Happy trails.
Gail
 
R Scott
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And for mirrors: I have seen mirror sliding or bifold doors (like for closets) for $10 at habitat for the whole set. They would make a great light shaft.
 
Gail Moore
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Great resource idea for reusing mirror doors, R.

Maybe even if a person had to buy them new, they might cost less than a "wall" mirror. Many wall mirrors are not 'optically correct' these days, they are cheaply made have bad reflections, like something out of the old carnival House of Mirrors.

Gail
 
R Scott
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Gail Moore wrote:Great resource idea for reusing mirror doors, R.

Maybe even if a person had to buy them new, they might cost less than a "wall" mirror. Many wall mirrors are not 'optically correct' these days, they are cheaply made have bad reflections, like something out of the old carnival House of Mirrors.

Gail


It's the mirror's fault I look fat? COOL!!!
 
Mike Oehler
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Kat, Gail Moore's answer is exactly what I would have told you. (Thank you Gail!!)

Are you possibly related to authors Ken and Barbara Kern, Kat? -- MO
 
Katrin Kerns
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Mike Oehler wrote:Kat, Gail Moore's answer is exactly what I would have told you. (Thank you Gail!!)

Are you possibly related to authors Ken and Barbara Kern, Kat? -- MO


Sorry this is such a late reply, but life got in the way of my best intentions. No, to the best of my knowledge I'm not related to them. Kerns is my married name, my husband might be related though.
 
Jeffrey Hodgins
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What you need is not a pariscoptic window but a parabolic window. Using a concave mirror like a satellite dish and a convex mirror to re distribute the light. With this system you would be able to grow plants indoors even if the window was 2 inches across, but you will need a sun tracker wich is like $100 plus the parabolic mirrors
 
Katrin Kerns
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Jeffrey Hodgins wrote:What you need is not a pariscoptic window but a parabolic window. Using a concave mirror like a satellite dish and a convex mirror to re distribute the light. With this system you would be able to grow plants indoors even if the window was 2 inches across, but you will need a sun tracker wich is like $100 plus the parabolic mirrors


Oh, cool... Thanks so much! That's a really cool idea!
 
Helen Keenan
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Hi Kat,

I have been looking for a way to bring daylight and outside (street level) activity in to a basement apartment. Many years ago I saw something on TV about that and what they did was totally remarkable. The only trouble is the only thing I can remember about it is the use of mirrors. I had a blood clot in my brain in '02 when I was just 52 and my memory is terrible as a result of it. It actually damaged all 4 lobes on the right side of my brain.

Anyway I came across something that may be of great interest to you: http://www.moonsociety.org/publications/mmm_classics/mmmc1_Jul2004.pdf
At the very top of the page is a picture of the underground home, but you'll want to go down the page to the article/topic "M' IS FOR "MOLE" where it goes into the building of the home in more detail. The architect-builder is Gerald Keller. I've been doing all sorts of searches trying to locate him, but so far with no success.

If you or anyone else reading this could help me to figure out how to do what I want to do, it would be greatly appreciated. I'm afraid I'll need step by step instructions.

Hope this works out for you Kat. )
 
Katrin Kerns
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Hi Helen,

Yeah, some of the stuff they did is exactly what I was talking about. I didn't know that someone had actually already done it. Trying to find info on it is less than satisfactory though as it appears that it dropped off the grid as soon as it became privately owned. The place does still exist though as I did a map search off of the address and took a look at the satellite images of it. I have only been able to find two mentions of it at all though and both were in the Moon Miner's Manifesto. From the looks of the satellite photo though the estate is huge and I count at least 9 of those pariscopic window things. Wish the current owner would have posted information about the house and more importantly about those windows. I will keep digging though, you never know where you might find information.

Kat
 
Katrin Kerns
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Hey, do you think Paul could maybe write to the current owner and ask for information? The address was listed as 4631 Sonseeahray Dr, Hubertus WI 53033. I mean he wouldn't have the current owner's name, but maybe if it were approached just right he could get the current owner to talk about the house and how the lighting was built (if they know anything) or maybe they would be willing to let someone who knows lighting study the design? Anyway, just a thought.

Kat
 
Helen Keenan
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Hi Kat,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

I don't see why Paul wouldn't do it. Were you wanting me to write to Paul or were you going to do it.

You sound so knowledgeable on the subject and perhaps you have a very scientific mind. I don't know anything about it, just trying to get some light into our downstairs apartment where my sister lives. I don't mind writing to him though if you don't want to.

Helen
 
Helen Keenan
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Oh, I forgot to ask. Do you live in an underground home Kat?
 
Katrin Kerns
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Helen Keenan wrote:Oh, I forgot to ask. Do you live in an underground home Kat?


Thanks Helen,

If you would write to him that would be great. I wouldn't know the first thing on how to write to Paul, lol, I'm actually a lot less outgoing than I may seem. Sadly no, I don't live in an underground home... yet. My mate and I hope to one day have our own property though and we want an interesting hybrid home. We would like to have some of it underground and some of it above but all connected. We have been playing around with plans for it for years, and the design keeps changing but that aspect of it remains the same.

Kat
 
Helen Keenan
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Hi Kat, below is a copy of the message I sent to "Peter Kokh. Just thought you'd like to know what I wrote.

Helen

Dear Mr. Kokh,

As I was looking for some way to add light and outside visibility to a downstairs basement with window well windows I stumbled upon the essay you wrote in Moon Miners' Manifesto back in December of '86 entitled "M" IS FOR "MOLE" by Peter Kokh.

I've been doing searches on-line for Gerald Keller and can not find any information about him. If he is still alive (I have no idea how old he would be) do you know of any way I could contact him for informational help.

If he is not available would you have any idea how to contact the current owners and perhaps get them to talk about the house and how the lighting was built (if they know anything) or maybe they would be willing to let someone who knows lighting study the design?

I would appreciate any help, at all, you could be with this.

Very Best Regards,
Helen Keenan
Pleasant View, UT
additional e-mail: parkavehelen@yahoo.com
 
Katrin Kerns
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Wow Helen!

Very cool, please keep us apprised of any information that you receive from Mr. Kokh if you get a response. This could be very enlightening... um... no pun intended.

Kat
 
Helen Keenan
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Hi Kat,

I'm so sorry I haven't been in touch. I never heard anything from Peter Kokh. Perhaps he's not even among the living anymore. If you think of anything else keep me posted.

Until the next time,

Helen
 
Katrin Kerns
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No worries Helen,

At least you tried. Maybe ask Paul Wheaton if he has any ideas about hot to find out more on this? Not really sure what else to do or say. Take care,

Kat
 
Robert McEvoy
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Just joined the site recently and have been reading a ton of posts lately. I like the idea you have and think that maybe you could use a refracted lens/mirror. I am not sure if I am using the terminology correctly or if it is a viable means of expanding the light coming through, but maybe the use of a concave or convex mirror or lens at some point could help with your lighting issue.
good luck
 
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