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Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.

5 Tips for Building a Partially Earth-Sheltered Home

An earth-sheltered home is a structure that’s built below ground, partially below ground, or into a hillside so at least one wall is completely encapsulated by the earth. Earth-sheltered homes have several advantages, especially for people interested in green building or net zero energy houses. They take advantage of the earth’s thermal mass, which can reduce energy consumption. If they’re built correctly, they can have lower maintenance costs and higher strength and durability. A home that’s below ground or nestled into the earth also has a minimal esthetic impact on the property.


Coleman and Susan Pulsifer had all of these advantage in mind when they built a partially earth-sheltered home in northern California. Coleman planned and constructed the home almost entirely by himself. He shares five lessons he learned during his DIY home building process.

Get to Know the Land Before You Start

“If I was going to counsel anyone about the concept of doing an earth-sheltered home, I’d really encourage them to take time on the land and look at it and understand its form,” Coleman says. “They should think very deeply about their particular site and how water flows on it.”

The reason is that building a home into the earth requires a more intimate relationship with the land. Putting the home in the right spot will minimize disruption of the earth and the amount of work for the builders. If you’re hiring a contractor, that will save you money. Understanding the ins and outs of the parcel will give the builder ideas about how they can best take advantage of the sun (both for lighting and passive solar heating) and minimize water intrusion.

“If you’re earth sheltering, you’re going to be doing a lot of grading and moving of soil,” Coleman says. To help picture where soil needs to be shifted around, he recommends using a hand sight level (also known as a hand level or sight level). You look through the small device like a telescope to compare places against a consistent point of reference. That will help you better understand what work needs to be done.

Manage Water Inside and Out

As was mentioned above, one of the most important reasons to understand the land before building the home is that water management is vital for earth-sheltered homes. One of the disadvantages of this building style is that houses are very susceptible to water damage.

To deal with the water that would flow around his home, Coleman created perimeter drains with perforated pipe inside and outside the structure. “That way, if the outside drain failed, the inside drain would be there to take up some of the slack,” he says.


Coleman built his walls with Faswall insulated concrete forms. They’re made with mineralized wood, which means they naturally resist rot, pets, and mold and mildew. They are somewhat permeable, though, so to make them more waterproof, he added three coats of waterproofing to the outside of the blocks. He then covered them with a layer of 10 mil polyester sheeting.

Besides building the walls with an appropriate material, Coleman coated the walls with plaster appropriate for his underground setting. When air flows into an earthen-sheltered home, it doesn’t have easy ways to escape since it’s surrounded by dirt. Because of that, it’s easy for it to condense on the walls and lead to mold or mildew ground.

Coleman is an advocate of using lime plaster for earthen-sheltered homes. “It’s reputed to be wonderful for resisting the development of mildew,” he says. He added a higher-than-usual portion of lime to his Portland cement plaster and has found it worked quite well. (Builders interested in learning more about lime plaster should check out the book The Natural Plaster Book: Earth, Lime and Gypsum Plasters for Natural Homes by Cedar Rose Guelberth and Dan Chiras).

Don’t Skimp on Insulation

“People say the earth is insulative and you don’t need insulation, but that’s an oversimplification that is incorrect,” Coleman says. While the earth’s natural embodied energy does reduce temperature swings in a home, soil does get quite warm and quite cool. Anyone hoping for more control over the interior temperature – without running a heater or air conditioner constantly – must pay careful attention to the home’s insulation.

This is another area where the Faswall product made a big impact. The mineralized wood blocks have hollow cores that are filled with cement once they’re stacked. “Faswall was so wonderful because the material itself, once it’s filled with concrete and with no additional insulation, still has a very high R-value,” says Coleman. “That’s inherent in the material and the way it’s made. That’s worked very well for us.

“The maximum temperature downstairs is 80 degrees, even when it’s August and 105 degrees and everything is parched brown,” he continues. The downstairs rooms also stay warm enough to be comfortable during the coldest days of winter.

Shine Some Light Underground

Earth-sheltered homes can be dark in addition to dank. Coleman solved that problem by building wing walls off the main body of the house, where he needed to construct retaining walls anyway.

“The retaining walls went all the way up and were the same height as the rest of the foundation,” he says. “South of the retaining walls I put in windows with sills about three feet off the floor, then backfilled the walls with dirt. The retailing walls coming out from the house allowed us to backfill the majority of the house so it’s mostly earth-sheltered, but our downstairs has light coming in from three sides.”

Consider a Root Cellar

The earth’s insulating properties make it easy to add a root cellar to an earthen-sheltered home. Coleman and Susan’s solar powered, off-the-grid home didn’t originally have the capacity to power a refrigerator. Instead, they stored most of their food in ice chests and the root cellar.

“Pantries and closets are frequently too warm,” Coleman says. By contrast, the underground root cellar stays cool for the majority of the year. They were able to keep winter squash and other vegetables in the space for nine months, and keep their ice bill down by having a temperate setting for their coolers.

Paul Wood is has more than 30 years experience in the construction industry. He spent over a decade with Habitat for Humanity International, building homes across Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. For the past 10 years, Paul has been the co-owner of ShelterWorks, maker of Faswall blocks, an insulated concrete form (ICF) that can be used to build extremely green homes. Connect with Paul on Facebook and Twitter.

 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

10 Mother's Day Gifts for Homesteading Moms

Ergobaby buckle baby carrier 

Okay you guys, I’m going to make a startling confession here, and I hope you won’t judge me on it - we don’t celebrate Mother’s Day in our house. Sure, my husband and I extend some form of greeting to our own moms, but in this house, no sirree - not a bit. 

It was my choice a couple of years ago, and one that I really stand behind. I decided I didn’t want there to be one day a year where there was all of this pressure to shower me with gifts and praise, because it just would never feel real to me. I might take the day as an excuse to go for a walk with my family in the woods, arrange flowers for my kitchen, and generally enjoy a mild spring day with my family, but there is zero acknowledgment of Mother’s Day in this house, and that’s just the way I like it. 

NOW, that being said, I still like getting gifts (because hello, who doesn’t??), and I know a lot of my sisters in motherhood out there do as well, so I thought that instead of spa days and jewelry, there needed to be a Mother’s Day gift list that was just for women like us. 

If you spend your mornings collecting eggs with a baby on your hip, dripping sweat in the garden while keeping an eye on your wandering toddler, or teaching your kids how to work the power tools so you can get a hand with your latest project, well sister, this one’s for you. 

If you have a woman in your life that does all of this, then sit up straight in your chair, and read closely, because this is good stuff right here. 

Ten of the coolest and most practical gifts on the web for some of the hardest workin’ women under the sun. 

A Garden Tool (to Make Her Life Less Back Breaking) 

First, let me just start out by saying that pretty much anything you get from Lehman’s is going to knock ANYONE’S socks off. This company specializes in Amish tools, and has grown their offerings to everything from butter churns to composting toilets. 

That being said, I’m particularly smitten with this made in the USA steel broadfork. It’s tough, easy to use, made right here, and pretty darned affordable too. If the mother in your life doesn’t have chickens to aerate her soil for her, this is an awesome tool to save her some back-breaking work in your backyard garden. 

Check out Lehman’s steel broadfork here

A Top-of- the-Line Baby Carrier

Now, let’s make this real clear from the start - anybody can wear a baby, and that includes a man. That being said, if you’re like me, the babies spend most of their time with you, and by god, those dishes have to get done somehow.  

A baby carrier is perhaps THE most useful thing I’ve ever owned as a parent. Each carrier has their own ideal use, and every parent has their personal preference. They are generally three types of carriers: 

Soft structured carriers (think strap and buckles)
Ring slings
Wraps (just a long, strong piece of fabric) 

My top picks for soft structured carriers have always been the Lillebaby, Ergobaby, and Beco carriers, because they allow for such a wide variety of ergonomic carrying positions. There are tons of great ring slings out there, but I’ve always loved my Maya Ring Sling.


If your woman loves the look and feel of a wrap, a Moby Wrap is a fantastic one for beginners. 

All of these carriers are beautiful, built SOLID, and ergonomic for both mom and baby. Trust me, they’re both going to be happy with this one. 

Sustainable and Ethical Jewelry from Rare Earth 

Okay, so I know that this is one spendy gift option right here. That being said, even this dirty-nailed hippie loves shiny objects, and there’s just no denying that it’s going to knock the socks off of anyone you’re trying to treat. 

I love Brilliant Earth because it’s so much more than just a jewelry company. They source all of their diamonds from conflict-free zones, use recycled metals, and even donate 5% of their profits to communities that have been damaged by the ravages of the jewelry industry. 

It’s an amazing company, and their jewelry is nothing short of STUNNING. Their rings are beautiful, but I particularly love this willow branch necklace of theirs. 

Clothes for a Hard Workin’ Woman 

Okay, I love Duluth SO MUCH. Their clothing is so well made, they have so many different options, and their whole company has so much spunk and personality.  

If the mother in your life is like most women, she’s the last person she spends money on, and the thought of dropping some serious money on some great chore clothes is probably the furthest thing from her mind. 

I’m not going to sit here and tell you what she needs, that I’m afraid, is up to you, but there are plenty of awesome things on Duluth’s site to get you started, and I can’t imagine any of it disappointing. 

The Egg Apron 

Ohhh yea. She has enough on her hands with kids and work and chores, so give her somewhere to put those eggs without having to make multiple trips. These egg aprons have been making their rounds on social media, and for good reason. They’re practical, adorable, and hello, genius. You can get them all over the place, but I like this one from NW Creative Keepsakes on Etsy. 


Okay, maybe not just any food, but delicious, highly rare treats that are just for her are never going to go underappreciated. Whether it’s a cake from your local bakery or her favorite candy, satisfying her sweet tooth is going to make her perfectly happy. Get the kids involved, and decorate a homemade cake just for her, and prepare for the crocodile tears. 


I’ve never really been a fan of cut flowers myself, they make me kind of sad (grown, harvested, and transported, just to wilt on my counter a week later - how sad is that??), but potted plants I swoon for. 

It doesn’t have to be flowers either, people. Get her the makings of an herb garden from your local nursery, or do something really amazing and get her some bare root fruit trees. I just learned heaps about these from Winter Cove Farms, and they’re a surefire way to get a successful orchard going in any climate. 

Nail Brush 

Look, here’s the thing - there are definitely homesteading women out there with pretty, manicured nails, but I for one cannot even imagine such a world. If your woman’s like me and would laugh if you bought her a manicure, get her this instead. 

This tough little nail brush is perfect for scrubbing the yuck out from under your nails, and is great for getting into the grooves of those tough, hard-workin’ hands of hers. Naturally, it’s brought to you by Lehman’s. 

Skin Care Products 

While a mani-pedi might not be the most practical gift for your hard workin’ woman, some high quality natural skin care products definitely are. Hands that get washed a lot or spend tons of time in the dirt definitely need a moisture pick me up, so get her some stuff to help her feel a bit refreshed at the end of the day. 

I for one am a HUGE fan of the Filthy Farmgirl  line. Aside from just having hilarious names that’ll make you blush to say out loud, this stuff smells amazing without being overpowering, is one heck of a cleaning agent, and leaves skin butter soft. 

What you get for her really depends on the fragrances she’s fond of (of which there are PLENTY to choose from). Bundle it with a complementary lotion. I’ve used their rose butter lotion myself, and it’s moisturizing without being greasy, and gone entirely too fast. 

The Perfect Beverage Container 

I know this sounds weird, and random, and totally not gift-like, but on that same token, I don’t know a person alive that doesn’t love a great water bottle or coffee thermos. Here’s something you should know about moms: 

Some of them actually get HOSPITALIZED because they’re literally so busy they forget to drink enough water to function.

They always drink their coffee or tea cold, because 20 other things demand their attention more than an enjoyable cuppa. 

We’re coffee, tea, AND water drinkers in this house, so I’ve tried a bit of everything. We generally try to avoid plastic as much as possible, and strive for containers that are easy to clean, and tough enough to last us. 

The best water bottles I’ve come across, hands down, are the Pura Stainless Steel bottles. Not only are they incredibly tough and completely devoid of plastic, but they’re also interchangeable with their silicon sippy cup, bottle, and straw lids (not that she’ll want to share). They also make a stainless steel vacuum insulated bottle, which, in theory, should be fine for hot drinks as well (though I’ve never tried it myself). 

My husband is a tea drinker, so I actually just bought in a Pure Zen Tea tumbler with infuser, and it’s pretty awesome. Another design devoid of plastic, this tumbler is made of glass, so you do need to exercise a fair amount of care with it, but it’s so worth it for steeping on the go sans plastic. It’s pretty, it comes in a pretty box - pair it with her favorite tea, and you’ve got the perfect gift compadre.

Coffee thermoses are tricky. In order to be really convenient, I feel like there has to be a flip top/push button lid (because if there’s one thing a busy mom doesn’t have time to do, it’s take the lid off one more damned drink). That being said, I’ve always really, REALLY loved the Aladdin thermoses. They’re leak-proof, stainless steel, vacuum sealed, and they keep your drink warm FOREVER. Seriously, these things are incredible, and a total steal at $20 each. 

You know, it’s funny. I feel like people ask me all the time if I need anything, what would make my life easier, and my go-to response is always nothing, but this list really gets those ‘that would be nice’ juices flowing. 

The bottom line is, a lot of women are never going to readily admit to wanting or needing much of anything - least of all moms - because they’re always busy taking care of someone else. Trust me though, if you put the thought into it and get her something like this, something practical that she can actually use, then that tough as nails and sweet as candy mama is going to brimming with appreciation.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

A Tiny Home 3 Different Ways

Tiny homes are gaining popularity for a good reason. The seemingly small square footage gets maximized, allowing for a different kind of home — one that still has all of the necessities but is eco-friendly and comfortable. The trend for smaller living quarters isn’t about subscribing to the latest fashion in home design. Instead, it’s about a new housing movement that prioritizes smart design, economization and a smaller footprint on the land.

These tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes and in a variety of materials and looks that make them desirable simply for their uniqueness. Tiny houses can be built out of anything from a truck bed to a train car, with many variations in-between.

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Source: Pexels

Here are three different materials for the exterior of a tiny home: 


Steel is produced in many forms. Think steel train cars, shipping cartons and the frame of your favorite car. These seemingly average products can be used as a base for a fully-customizable and interesting home. In the case of a large shipping container, the container is built and coated with marine-grade paint to slow the aging process. Its ability to withstand the natural elements, as well as it's desirable, rectangular shape, makes it a perfect choice for beginning construction on a steel-faced tiny home.

And you can feel good about using steel, too, since it’s one of the most-recycled materials out there. By and large, this option means your imagination is your only limit, as there can be no doubt about the viability and strength steel has to offer. 

Reclaimed Wood

One of the most admirable traits of tiny homes is the use of recycled materials. Often building with a consciousness of the footprint left behind by living spaces, many owners of tiny homes work to make the most of what’s already available. This can mean using materials like reclaimed wood.

Reclaimed wood can add personality and charm to a home with its aged look and feel. Chosen for these qualities, reclaimed wood is full of positive benefits. It’s most appealing benefit is, of course, that it’s a highly sustainable option. But because older wood was typically harvested from trees at a time when they were allowed to mature, it tends to be more durable and strong. This makes it an excellent choice for flooring, countertops or the exterior of a home. 

Cob or Adobe

Cob and adobe houses have been around for centuries and have a rich history of construction around the world. These homes use the surrounding earth to create unique structures that can boast of rounded walls and intricate details.

Both cob and adobe are constructed from a combination of soil, clay, water and straw. The biggest difference between the two is that adobe houses are made from dried bricks of the mixture, whereas a cob house is built when the materials are wet, allowing for those beautifully unique curved walls. Either technique, though labor-intensive, can be both cost-effective and long-lasting.

Though practically perfect, cob and adobe homes do have some hurdles to overcome during the build phase. Shrinkage, though more likely to be an issue with cob than with adobe bricks, is one factor that has to be considered. The adobe method reduces some of the risk, as the bricks are already dried before construction.

There may also be a few issues with obtaining the proper certifications, as cob houses aren’t quite the norm nowadays. And the build phase does take a lot of endurance and patience. As the trend toward sustainability continues, however, these hurdles should become easier to manage.

The tiny house trend isn’t one to be ignored, and it’s likely to continue to gain footing as sustainable efforts become a higher priority. As the average cost of a new house continues to rise — hitting $390,400 in 2017 — finding less expensive but still ecological options will become a necessity.

Tiny homes can be built out of a variety of materials in various shapes and sizes. If they’re built well, they may be able to help create a space of high efficiency, cutting down on home maintenance costs. Above all, owners of these small builds have the option to customize their dream home at a truly affordable price.

 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Building Mistakes: Prevention and Correction


Mistakes are an integral part of a learning process and can be expected if you are an amateur builder, but it might also be very frustrating, since this isn’t just a practical lesson – it’s a real dwelling you are trying to raise and make livable and comfortable, often under great constraints of time and money. It would be wise to mentally prepare for making mistakes and fixing them as you go.

We had bought a load of rubber tiles, which took a couple of labor-intensive days to be attached to the roof – only to be blown off by the first strong wind. We learned from this mistake and opted for a tin roof instead, writing off the lost money as a kind of tuition fee.

Also, thinking back to when we sat down and planned the cabin layout, I would probably allot more space for the kitchen. I’d also dispense with the storage/office room in favor of enlarging the bedroom next to it. The point is, there are always things you only think of in retrospect, and that’s a part of life.

Think of future prospects: do you think you might enlarge your house at any point? If so, how would an addition merge with the first part? I have been in houses with extremely inconvenient layouts, simply because they were built, in the first place, as a unit without the thought of expanding in the future, so rooms were added here and there, with walls stuck in the middle and corridors that waste space. When we built our cabin, we kept in mind that we would eventually want to enlarge it, so we planned accordingly.

Be especially careful as you are laying the foundation for your house, since mistakes made at this point are usually the most difficult to fix.

If you are building under time pressure, for example just before the beginning of the cold or rainy season, focus all your efforts on enclosing the main structure and putting on a roof. We did that, since we knew that we’d need to take a break in building (for budget reasons) and didn’t want the cabin to come to harm during the winter rains.

Whatever you do, if you are building with wood, choose pressure-treated lumber that is resistant to wood pests, and if at all possible, opt to use types of wood which are naturally resistant to wood borers, such as cedar or cypress. Wood pests can be a major problem and one extremely hard to get rid of. The house we currently live in has wood paneling and wood ceilings, and unfortunately, it is deeply infested – whatever treatment we have tried provided only temporary relief. Fortunately, we will probably leave this house in the near future – but we won’t be able to take our wooden furniture with us, as it is now also infected, and we don’t want to run the risk of bringing wood pests into our new cabin.


I thought I should go a bit more in-depth on the subject of insulation, because a well-insulated house really pays off, returning the initial investment you make within a short space of time. A well-insulated house is much, much easier to keep warm in winter and cool in the summer, and therefore requires less energy. A small cabin with good insulation is a truly energy-efficient home.

In our cabin we used glass wool for insulation. Glass wool or mineral wool makes a great insulating material, provided that you don’t use it in a way that exposes you to mineral wool dust. For example, if you are building a house made of lumber with wood paneling along the interior, and you want to put some glass wool or mineral wool between the outer walls and the paneling, the glass wool has to be wrapped in plastic sheaths, because otherwise some of it will eventually start to break down, and tiny dust particles will leak into the house through little cracks in the wood paneling, which can cause severe health issues including but not limited to skin irritation, eye irritation and respiratory problems. We know this from experience – the person who built the house where we currently reside skipped the sheathing part when using glass wool, and for a couple of months we experienced persistent coughing and other symptoms of respiratory system irritation without even knowing why. Once the problem was detected, we solved it by plastering the walls.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here

 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Metal Roof Retrofitting: Is It Worth Your Time?

Suitable for use in both residential and commercial construction, metal roofs have seen explosive growth over the past few years. Although it's still a relatively recent innovation, consumers have been quick to embrace the new style and retrofit their own traditional roofs. Is it really worth your time, or is the trend of metal roofing nothing more than the latest fad?


Source: Pexels

A New, Lightweight Material

With most metal roofs weighing approximately 100 pounds per square, the material is significantly less than standard tile or concrete roofing. The reduced weight also makes installation quicker and easier, especially considering many metal roofs are installed over preexisting, traditional structures.

One of the biggest drawbacks of today's metal roofs is the difference in pricing. Costing upwards of $200 per square, with some installations reaching as high as $600 per square, the initial project isn't financially feasible for everyone. However, the fact that your new roof will last longer with less maintenance requirements means there is a potential for some serious cash savings in the end.

An Investment in Your Future

Because traditional roofs need to be replaced every 20 to 30 years, there is quite a bit of expense involved in maintaining them. Conversely, metal roofs that have been properly installed and maintained are capable of lasting 50 years or even longer. Many homeowners will be able to install a metal roof once and never have to worry about it again.

Some homeowners — and neighbors — simply don't like the aesthetics of the modern metal roof. However, metal roof styles have come a long way. With the variety of options available, including those made to look like wood or stone, you’ll likely find something that appeals to you.

Some installations are also rather noisy, which can create even more of a nuisance for your community. It's worth taking the time to consult with your closest neighbors, ask for their input and let them know your plans. This simple gesture can go a long way in avoiding future problems.

Metal roofs that become dented or damaged are even uglier. Minor repairs can be done relatively easily, but it will cost you. Moreover, it might be difficult to match the original shingles or materials used 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. Proactive homeowners might consider purchasing additional metal upfront to avoid this issue, but that adds to the overall bill of your new roof.

It's recommended to check with your local code authority to determine if one or two layers of shingles are allowable for recover, as well. Some cities and municipalities require specific approval via special inspections, permits or standards that must be met when upgrading your roof. Failure to abide by any established rules or regulations could result in serious fines as well as the complete removal of any new metal you've installed thus far.

Not only could this result in serious damage to your existing roof structure, but the added amount of time and money spent in this scenario could also put a serious wrench in your home improvement plans.

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Source: Pexels

Not a DIY Job

Installing a metal roof is not a do-it-yourself job that can be completed in a weekend. Unlike traditional roofs, which can be installed with little difficulty by a team of novice laborers, metal finishes are best left to the professionals. Some DIY kits and metal shingle packages are available, but these still require the supervision of a metal roofing expert.

Traditional roofing utilizes a very basic set of construction tools and hardware. Hammers, nails, pry bars, shovels, caulking and various wood saws are enough for most residential applications. Metal roofs, on the other hand, require all of these tools plus various snips, benders, seamers and clamps that might not be found in the average roofer's toolbox.

You Will Enjoy the Benefits of Your Metal Roof for Years to Come

The benefits of metal roofs far outweigh the negatives. While there is a bit of maintenance and upkeep to stay on top of, as well as significant upfront costs for the initial construction, these expenses are offset by the increased longevity and durability of metal roofs. Most homeowners will be able to enjoy their new roof for decades to come.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

What's So Hot About Infrared Grills?

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Cooking our food over an open flame is something humans have been doing since we discovered fire. In the ensuing millennia, however, little has changed about the basic process of outdoor cooking. That is until the 1980s came along. That’s when infrared cooking technology was developed by Bill Best, founder of the Thermal Engineering Corp.

Infrared cooking employs radiation to help gas grills cook food faster and more evenly. Gas burners super heat an emitter plate, made from ceramic or stainless steel, which sits just below the grill’s grates. Heat from the plates then radiates evenly to the food on the grill, rather than flickering and flaring as can be the case with standard gas grills.

Initially, due to its high cost, this technology was only used in high-end commercial kitchens. But in 2,000, the expiration of Thermal Engineering Corp’s patents opened up the technology to home chefs. While early consumer infrared grills were eye-wateringly expensive, that’s no longer the case. Today, infrared grills are similar in cost to standard gas grills. In many higher-end grills, an infrared burner is incorporated in the design along with the standard burners, giving you more options for cooking your meats and veggies.

So why would you want to incorporate infrared into your grilling arsenal? Because it cooks meat faster and more evenly for a juicier result than its traditional gas grill counterpart. Here’s a rundown of the benefits of infrared grills.

Infrared vs. Convection

Gas and charcoal grills cook primarily through convection: hot air circulating the food, trapped by the lid of the grill. This can lead to food drying out. With infrared, the heat radiates directly into the food, cooking it more quickly so that it stays juicy. It also means you can leave the lid open when cooking, helping you keep a closer eye on how your food is cooking.

Faster Cooking

Infrared grills can heat up to extremely high temperatures in two to three minutes (compared to 10 minutes for traditional gas and closer to 20 for charcoal grills). Food also cooks in around half the time. Because consistent heat is given off, the ambient air temperature has no effect on the grill—meaning you can cook the same way in the dead of winter as you do at the peak of the summer.

Need even more convincing? Quick preheat times and half the cooking time mean less fuel used overall, making infrared grilling a very energy-efficient method of cooking.

More Even Cooking

In many infrared grills, the ceramic or stainless steel emitter plate are layered with glass plates that direct air flow away from the food, providing more evenly diffused heat. That consistent heat flow results in more evenly cooked foods than traditional convection-based grills.

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Fewer Flare-Ups

While some people might like the charcoal-y taste of burnt skin, with infrared those meat-charring flare-ups are a thing of the past. Because of the design of the burner, dripping fat is less likely to reach the open flame, preventing those unexpected flare-ups.

Adapting to cooking with an infrared grill can take some time, so don’t be surprised if you burn a few steaks at first. It cooks so much faster that you will need to stay with the food until you’re used to the differing cooking times. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll find cooking with infrared means far less time hovering over the grill and far more time to spend hanging out with friends and family over a good home-cooked meal.

Jennifer Tuohy writes for a variety of publishers, including The Home Depot, on several subjects, but her passion lies with technology. She is fascinated with topics such as infrared grilling and home automation. To find more grilling options like the infrared grill Jennifer talks about in this article, visit The Home Depot.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The ABCs of LED Lighting (Infographic)

We can all agree that the shift from energy-sucking incandescent bulbs to the clean, green power of LED lighting has been a great boon to the planet. But when it comes to buying a bulb, it can feel like you need a textbook to navigate the myriad choices. From the collection of numbers and letters on the packaging that resembles an algebra equation, to all the new vocabulary (just what’s a Kelvin got to do with your bathroom light fixture?), confusion creeps in quickly.

Help is at hand. Use this infographic to brighten your mind (and your bathroom) by cutting through all the jargon and soaking up just the facts in your quest to flip the switch from incandescent to LED.

LED Lighting Infographic

Jennifer Tuohy shares tips on green living and sustainability. She writes for The Home Depot on topics ranging from upcycling old rainboots to replacing your incandescent light bulbs. If you are switching over to LED light bulbs, you can find a large assortment here at The Home Depot. Read all of Jennifer’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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