Technical Innovations

Manufacturer of Home-Dome and Pro-Dome Observatories

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FAQs


Below are a number of questions come upon a regular basis.
 



 TABLE OF CONTENTS


  1. What are  the differences between a Home-Dome and a Pro-Dome ?
  2. How does the dome attach to the foundation?
  3. Can motors and automation be added later?
  4. What exactly is Pre-Assembly and why should I consider that service ?
  5. What is the difference between your new "Pre_drilling" Service and your "Pre-Assembly" Service?
  6. Do I have to pay tax on the dome purchase?
  7. Is it OK to use a tripod in the dome, or should I switch to a pier?
  8. Can we mount the dome on a building we design and build?
  9. What is dome automation, and what will I need?
  10. What is the right size dome for my telescope?
  11. How fast does the electric drive system rotate the dome?
  12. Why does Pre-assembly NOT include foundation mounting holes and skirts?
  13. What if the crate arrives damaged by the shipping company?
  14. Do the drive systems and electronics carry a warranty?
  15. Will I be able to purchase replacement parts for my dome if needed?
  16. Can Digital Dome Works be adapted to other observatories?
  17. What ongoing maintenance is required for my dome?
  18. Is white the only color I can get for the outside finish?
  19. If I move, can I take my dome with me?
  20. Can my dome operate in temperature extremes?
  21. How high of winds will the dome withstand?
  22. What makes up the packing and crating charges?
  23. Can I pick up the dome at the plant to save crating & shipping?
  24. How much do the domes weight once they are assembled?
  25. Do you sell domes to customers outside the USA?
  26. How do I calculate the mounting footprints for the different domes?
  27. Do you have dealers?
  28. What is the life of a fiberglass dome?
  29. Can you comment on your competitors products?
  30. Can I contact you directly with my problem?
  31. Does the dome carry a warranty?

 

 

 

 Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between a Home-Dome and a Pro-Dome ?

The Home-Dome is designed to be mounted on another structure, for example a dormer on the roof of a garage. The Pro-Dome models have walls (solid or wall rings) with entry doors and are designed to be mounted on a concrete pad, deck, or flat building roof. There is no difference in the overall design or quality of materials, but the Pro-Dome models include additional parts and accessories (doors, deadbolt locking system, rotation enhancements, trim items, etc.) 


 

How does the dome attach to the foundation?

At the bottom of the base ring (or wall ring if using them) is a 3 inch wide mounting flange which turns to the inside. You will drill down through this flange into your foundation and fasten the dome down with anchor bolts

Every dome must be anchored to a strong foundation. The foundation keeps the dome from lifting, twisting or sliding away during windstorms


 

Can motors and automation be added later?

Yes, you can add any of our electrical equipment after the dome is constructed. Depending upon the observatory design, it is sometimes easier to install hardware during the initial assembly, but it is not essential to do so.  Often customers will first purchase a "manually operated" observatory, then find as time spent observing increases it makes sense to motorize. Usually, as an astronomer moves into imaging and then finds automation essential as long and/or multiple exposures take up the better part of the night  


 

What exactly is pre-assembly, and why should I consider that service?

Pre-assembly should not be confused with a "pre-drilling" option offered by some other vendors, as it is much more. With pre-assembly we have a specialist (whose only job is to build and test observatories), who will completely construct your observatory at the plant. Once completed, it is put through a comprehensive series of "working observatory" tests - including operation under a remote/automated environment, if that option is included. Once the dome is ready for crating and shipping, it is carefully un-assembled, leaving as much in place as possible and still safely pack. For example, a PD10 with 3 wall rings would be packed with "wall stacks" (three wall segments, plus the corresponding base ring segment), rather then all the individual pieces. We do not want to imply that construction without pre-assembly is an impossible (or even very difficult) process, but that pre-assembly will reduce the final construction time at your site by at least 50%. This factor should be considered especially when the customer is paying a contractor by the hour to build the observatory.    


 

What is the difference between your new "Pre_drilling" Service and your "Pre-Assembly" Service?

As you are aware, Technical Innovations offers an optional Pre-Assembly service at an additional charge of 15%. With preassembly, the dome is completely assembled, then fully tested as a “working observatory”. When the dome has not been preassembled at our plant, bolt holes need to be measured and drilled by the customer/installer in order to attach one fiberglass section to another or install miscellaneous add-on parts. Starting January 1, 2014 Technical Innovations began offering a new service called “Pre-Drilling” at a cost significanly less than the 15% “Pre-Assembly” charge. Rather than constructing the entire observatory, the pre-drill service will ship the fiberglass parts with most of these holes measured and drilled prior to crating. Throughout the final assembly process, it is extremely important to maintain roundness and levelness, while keeping a pleasing “cosmetic” appearance by aligning seams and keeping adjoining sections flush. Many times there will a hole going through two pieces of fiberglass which will then be bolted tightly together. Even though the sections must be moved around until the final position meets the specifications, (especially base and wall rings), we know closely enough where the holes will be located to be able to drill one set of the holes (“Guide”) then the use that hole as a guide when we drill through the second piece (“Final”). In this case, the pre-drill service will measure and drill the “guide” holes while the customer will drill the “final” (using alignment of the existing “guide” hole) and bolt the sections. The best example of this would be wall and base ring sections, which join together end-to-end (“Overlap”), and bolt to the corresponding section directly below, (“Stack”). Many of the holes are measured and drilled simply as “final”, and these will all be done in the pre-drill service. An example of this situation would be the holes for the wheels and side rollers in the base ring. Even though a few “final” holes will need to be drilled in the final assembly, no measurements will be required and “guide” holes will provide a fast and accurate final assembly.


 

Do I have to pay tax on the dome purchase?

Only those products delivered in the state of Florida or picked up at our facilities in Orlando Florida are currently subject to the 6.5% Florida sales tax. Of course Florida residents must pay the sales tax, even if the observatory will be located outside the state 

When international shipments arrive in the destination country, they are usually subject to duty/taxes which must be paid by the purchaser before the shipment is released from the customs warehouse. International customers should research these (including the process) prior to ordering. 


 

Is it OK to use a tripod in the dome, or should I switch to a pier?

Many "visual observing" people purchase an observatory as a safe (and out of the weather) location to keep their telescope and simplify preparation for viewing. In this case it is perfectly fine to continue using the tripod inside the observatory. These people will often find that once they begin to image they will need the stability a pier provides. Astronomers also find that an added benefit of a pier is the space freed up inside the observatory. See "At Home in a Dome" for a chapter on piers. 


 

Can we mount the dome on a building that we design and build?

Three models of our domes (HD6S, HD10 and HD15) are designed specifically for mounting on new or existing structures. We also have "skirt" products to make the transition between the round base ring and the structure. The domes are very weather tight and safe for even mounting above living areas. Our free downloadable booklet "At Home in a Dome" (see button on Home page) contains a lot of information on mounting domes on buildings.   


 

What is dome automation and what will I need?

Dome automation is the ability to operate the observatory without direct human intervention. This would include the ability to remotely operate the shutter, rotate the dome and slave the dome to the telescope. From our standpoint, automation also includes safeguards against adverse conditions (for example, bad weather or high winds). The dome must be motorized (ED - electric rotation system and ES - electric shutter system) before the Digital Dome Works (DDW)  automation package can be installed. If the Dome Trak level of automation is desired, only the ED system is required.


 

What is the right size dome for my telescope?

This is determined by two factors, the physical limits solely based upon dimensions and fit, and the space needs inside the observatory. For example, a 14" Meade LX200 can actually fit inside an HD6T for a robotic imaging observatory, but if the customer wishes to also have visual sessions (especially if intending to have guests), the 10" LX200 may be the "maximum" size to fit the requirements. We have a worksheet which can be downloaded (as a part of "At Home in a Dome" or individually on the PRODUCTS page). Many people find that "ideal" fits approximate a 10" SCT in a RoboDome; 12" SCT in 6 foot dome; 14-16" in 10 foot and larger scopes in the 15 foot.     


 

How fast does the electric drive system rotate the dome?

The electric dome drive system is made up of two 12vDC motor assemblies (on 6' and 10' domes) and four assemblies on the 15. These motors are geared to rotate the 10 foot dome 360 degrees in one minute (6 degrees per second). The 6 foot dome will rotate slightly faster while the 15 foot is less.


 

Why does pre-assembly NOT include mounting holes & skirts ?

The placement of mounting holes depends upon both the surface and material being mounted onto. In some cases the distance between any two bolts may vary based upon surface availability.

The circular and rectangular skirts are designed with seam overlaps to adjust to "perfect" fit. Even though the mounting structure dimensions are specified, the finished structure may be "off" by a fraction. Once the skirt is adjusted to the proper fit, the mounting holes can be drilled.   


 

What if the crate arrives damaged by the shipping company?

All freight shipments are insured through the shipping company. The customer should closely inspect the crate as it arrives in the truck for any evidence of damage. If damage to the crate is apparent, it should be noted on the driver ticket (Bill of Lading), with the driver signing acknowledgement. The crate can be damaged with none of the parts inside damaged, and likewise there can be damage to the dome with no visible exterior damage. Upon unpacking the dome, examine each part to assure there has been no damage in shipping. If any is encountered please contact our office as soon as possible. We will make sure that repairs or replacement is completed on a timely manner and we will work directly with the shipping company on the insurance claim.  


 

Do the drive systems and electronics carry a warranty?

Motor drives and electronics carried an industry standard 90 day warranty in the past, but that has been extended to one full year also as a result of the extremely low failure rate in these systems. A full copy of our standard warranty can be downloaded in the PRODUCT section of this web site.


 

Will I be able to purchase replacement parts for my dome?

Our policy is to provide replacement parts as needed for every dome produced and sold by Technical Innovations. I many cases parts have become obsolete by improvements and or design changes. If an improved replacement part is not available, we will custom make (at no additional charge) the exact damage part. We have all shop drawings for every part made since the production of dome #1 in 1992.  


 

Can Digital Dome Works be adapted to other observatories?

We and adapted and sold our Digital Dome Works automation package to both owners of domes manufactured by other vendors and "homemade" observatories. For some of the more popular, (Ash and AstroDome for example), we have custom interface packages to operate and control the higher voltage motor drive systems these domes contain. We have also developed custom applications for features such as dual shutter control and power transfer. We would be happy to talk to you about your observatory design and the automation levels you wish to achieve 


 

What ongoing maintenance is required for my dome?

The dome is made of "marine grade fiberglass" and stainless steel hardware to minimize on-going maintenance and allow you to concentrate on observing instead. We suggest washing the dome once or twice a year with soap and water 


 

Is white the only color I can get for the outside finish?

The "standard" colors of our observatory domes is bright white outside and non-reflective dark blue on the inside. The bright white is very high UV reflective and is very efficient at preventing heat buildup inside the observatory during the day. Even in desert areas, the inside temperature will be 10 degrees or less higher than outside air temps when closed up. The wide shutter slots assure quick stabilization once opened. Having said this, the fiberglass sections can still be ordered with any exterior (interior also) color the customer wishes. We understand that situations (for example homeowners associations requiring "earth tones") exist. The customer provides a color sample (hardware store paint chips work great) which is computer scanned and matching color pigments added directly to the gel-coat. This produces a color throughout the material and not a "coating" which would require maintenance. There is an extra charge for special colors, simply to cover our costs in acquiring material in much smaller volumns.     


 

If I move, can I take my dome with me?

Yes. We advise customers going through the permit process to use the designation "temporary structure" for the observatory dome. The domes were designed to be able to be un-assembled and moved. We are aware of one 10 foot dome that has been moved 4 times! If you know that the initial installation will be temporary, we suggest saving the clear silicone provided fro "caulking" the seams and instead using a white "strippable" caulk purchased at any home hardware store. The silicone is much more difficult (and longer lasting) to remove.  


 

Can my dome operate in temperature extremes?

We have domes outside of Phoenix Arizona (where 120 degrees F is not uncommon) as well as domes located inside the arctic circle. One customer with a PD10 located 125 miles north of Fairbanks Alaska reported that he stopped at -35 degrees F - not because the dome would not longer operate but that was his "personal" limit.  


 

How high of winds will the dome withstand?

Several years ago we had engineering studies done to support the national code level of 110mph winds. Since that time, several counties in Florida increased this level to 130mph. We have not completed a formal study to support the 130 level, but we did get an "opinion letter" from an engineer in Tallahassee that was successfully used to get a building permit issued. The following is an excerpt from an email received after hurricane Katrina -  "The eye of the storm passed directly over us (the official track was about 2 miles east of here) and so we went through the worst winds in the eye-wall - *twice*. Peak winds hit 140mph here. That's surely the record for Pro-Dome survival".

 


 

What makes up the packing and crating charges?

Our domes are normally shipped by motor or ocean freight. To assure that the dome arrives safely and with no damage to the finish, they are carefully packed in an enclosed wooden crate. Each crate is made by hand with 2x4s and plywood. As the crate structure is taking shape, the large fiberglass sections are inserted and isolated from each other. Crates built for ocean freight requires wood that has been heat sterilized and chemically treated, adding even more to the materials cost.  


 

Can I pick up the dome at the plant to save crating & shipping?

Yes you can. The packing charge will be reduced to $50 to cover our expenses helping you properly load, "pack" and secure the dome sections in your truck or trailer. There will be no shipping charges, BUT you must pay the 6% Maryland sales tax. Call us first to discuss the type and size of truck or trailer you will be using and to be sure that it will fit.


 

How much do the domes weigh once they are assembled ?

Our domes are made from fiberglass re-enforced poly-resin with gel-coat finish on both sides (often referred to as "marine grade fiberglass" since it is used on boats) and is quite light. A fully assembled HD6S weighs on 110 pounds, an HD10 is 310 pounds and an HD15 is approximately 750 pounds. Wall rings add 90 to 130 pounds depending upon size


 

Do you sell to customers outside the USA?

We sell our domes directly to customers around the world, and now have observatories in 47 countries. We have tried to make it known that ocean freight is very economical since we are on the east coast of the United States, very close to the Port of Baltimore. Deliveries to western Europe are about the same as deliveries by motor freight to the west coast of the U.S. Please contact us and we would be happy to provide an exact quote to your location. Also consider the strength of the Euro and other currencies against the dollar as the exchange rate is offering a significant "discount" to international customers.


 

How do I calculate the mounting footprints for the domes ?

The dome size refers to the approximate outside dimension of the base ring at the mounting point. These exact diameters are 72 inches for the six foot dome, 119 inches or the ten foot, and 179 inches for the fifteen. All base rings have a mounting flange which turns to the inside and is 2.5 inches wide on the six, 3 inches wide on the ten and 4 inches wide on the fifteen. Thus, the mounting footprint can be represented by two circles; the first being the outside diameter and the second (inside) being the outside diameter minus two times the width of the mounting flange. Therefore, the six foot would be 72 and 67; the ten foot dome 119 and 113; and the fifteen foot 179 and 171   


 

Do you have dealers?

Although we sell directly to astronomers around the world, we do have dealers and agents. These are typically telescope dealers and shop owners, most with first hand experience with our domes. You will see many of these advertising our products along side theirs.


 

What is the life of a fiberglass dome?

Our observatory domes are actually fiberglass re-enforced poly-resin with gel-coat finishes. This material id often called "Marine Grade Fiberglass" as it is the "fiberglass' used to make boats and watercraft. The "published" life of this material is 30 years, but the reality is that with proper care it will serve you indefinitely. If possible, wash the dome with soap and water once or twice a year. A coat of "clear-coat" car wax will also make the dome look "new". 


 

Can you comment on your competitor's products ?

We do our best to give you an honest assessment of product differences, but will not speak  badly about another product. There are pros and cons to every observatory design, and you are fortunate to have a choice. There is room for a variety of products in the market; no one product is perfect for all applications.

Here are a few general comparisons , and we can discuss more if you have specific questions:

  • Metal domes are more expensive than fiberglass, have poorer temperature control and higher installation costs.
  • Domes with bright white exterior will offer better UV reflection and less heat buildup.
  • Clamshell domes and roll-off roof observatories have wide sky views but do not offer wind and stray light protection.
  • Dome designs that provide a slot opening from the horizon to beyond zenith offer greatest flexibility
  • Tent type observatories offer temporary shelter but are not a permanent observatory solution. 

We urge you to evaluate us by reading customer testimonials on this web site, visit customer web sites through the Link page, and if possible visit one of our domes in operation. Contact us and we will attempt to set up a visit close to where you live.


 

Can I conatct you directly with my problem?

Yes. We are a customer service oriented comapany and will alsways be available either by phone (301-977-9000 Mon-Fri 8am-6pm)or by email at domes@homedome.com


 

Does the dome carry a warranty?

All fiberglass and small parts carry a one year warranty against material defects and failure. Motor drives and electronics carried an industry standard 90 day warranty in the past, but that has been extended to one full year also as a result of the extremely low failure rate in these systems. A full copy of our standard warranty can be downloaded in the PRODUCT section of this web site