Earthships: Luxury Homes Without The CostThere are probably a great number of people who have never heard what an Earth Ship or Tire Home is. There are also probably an equal number of people who once they hear what an Earthship is, will wonder why there aren’t more of them. Prepare yourself, because there is a system in place for home design and creation that can potentially revolutionize how we view a “house” in America.

What It Is

An Earthship is a form of a passive solar home, which means that the design uses windows, walls, and floors to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter, and reject solar heat in the summer. Passive solar homes do not use any mechanical or electrical devices.

These homes are generally made of earth filled tires for the foundation and empty water bottles and cans (or filled) for the walls. This uses thermal mass construction to naturally regulate indoor temperatures. In essence, the home temperature will stay around the 70’s year round. The only need will be at night during the winter, in which a normal stove or fireplace will suffice to keep the home warm. A single fireplace will work as well when the design in mind is to keep as much of the heat produced by a specific venting system that would distribute the heat throughout the house. This of course depends on the size of the home.


Earthships are mostly off-the-grid homes, which means that they rely as little upon public utilities and fossil fuels as possible. They are built specifically for utilizing available local resources, especially energy from the sun. They capture rainwater for either use in the home or garden. The homes themselves are optimally designed to grow various edibles on the inside where the most sun light can be had. The homes are built into berms for insulation, and to provide structural integrity.

Solar panels, wind turbines, and water turbines can be used to generate energy for the home. These are the three basic, and currently cheapest forms of renewable energy that are used in Earthships. For food, they even have fish hatcheries that can allow you to have your seafood year round. Couple that with vegetables, fruit, and other animals that you may have, and you may quite literally never have to leave your home.

Sewage for the Earthships can be treated on site so long as certain chemicals are avoided. There are two different types of used water that need to be treated, grey and black water. Grey water would be what is used for bathing and cleaning dishes, clothes, etc. It does not necessarily need any treatment so long as chemicals are not used, so this water is generally used to water plants.

Black water on the other hand is what would be used for your toilet. After the water is used, it is sent to a solar septic tank and eventually leads to a septic field. The water used in Earthships would be entirely from rain traps built into the roof and surrounding grounds, and snow run off. Water receptacles and containers are needed to store enough water, especially for drier times. 

Luxury Homes Without The Cost

Recycled Home

These homes are primarily recycled, meaning that as much of the material as possible has been used before, or comes from something else. The foundations are tire bails, which is useful as the rubber does not rot away if it becomes wet, and rather allows it to drain out. A rubber foundation is also good if the land the home is built on shifts; as the foundation will have a bit of give to it as well.

The internal, non-load bearing walls are often constructed in a honeycomb fashion, which provides some rigidity, and are made from empty, or full for extra insulation, cans and bottles. These are then thickly plastered with stucco, which allows for some very interesting designs to be had.

The roof of an Earthship is heavily insulated, as it needs to both keep out the heat during the summer and cold during the winter. It can be layered with poly-iso insulation for energy efficiency. Often times earth can be layered over the home and plants built upon that. This helps with insulation and the growth of desirable plants.


The cost associated with building an Earthship is significantly less than attempting to build a new home in the traditional sense. Beautiful homes can be created from recycled material, much of which can be had for free, or for little cost. Even if you were to use newer material, which does go against the Earthship principle, the cost is still significantly less as less material is needed overall.

Hopefully this article will have highlighted the potential benefits of building an Earthship over a traditional home. Or even to have sparked the interest to do some research into it yourself will be enough. There are those that may call these “hippie dwellings”, and it would be difficult to not agree. However, if you were to see some of the ones that have been created, both inside and out, you would not be able to help but imagine yourself living in one. Even if there are a few changes that you would make.

The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi, an SEO tactician and SEM strategist. If you enjoyed this article, you can follow me on twitter @avantgaurd. I am writing on behalf of The Planned Collection who offers the best architectural designs for any type of home, and certainly luxury house plans