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Equipment Discussions >> Observatories

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YetAnotherHobby
sage
*****

Reged: 09/02/09

Loc: Central CT
Skyshed Pod experience
      #5488408 - 10/25/12 11:07 AM

A while ago someone was looking for opinions on Exploradome vs SkyShed Pod. I chimed in with my recent experience with a used XL3 Pod, explaining how it was leaking badly enough to leave puddles on the floor.
Unexpectedly, the owner of Skyshed joined the conversation and recommended steps I could take to resolve the water intrusion. Last weekend I finally had time to pull the dome apart and make the recommended fixes. Since then it's been raining more or less continuously, and when I checked the pod this morning, not one drop of moisture had made it inside.
I wanted to share this to correct my statement that Pods are leaky. When they are several years old and have been transported several hundred miles in a suspension-challenged UHaul trailer, yes, they are leaky. But when they are properly assembled and sealed they are as tight as a drum.
I also wanted to note the remarkable level of help from Skyshed. Here is a vendor who actively monitors his product's image on Cloudy Nights and graciously offers his help to resolve a problem that isn't even of his own making. That kind of attention to their customers (even second hand customers like me) deserves to be recognized. Kudos to the team at Skyshed - I'm an even happier Pod owner now.

Geoff


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SkyShed
Vendor (Sky Shed)


Reged: 05/23/05

Loc: Staffa , ON
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: YetAnotherHobby]
      #5488557 - 10/25/12 12:29 PM

Our pleasure Geoff!

Glad to hear everything is working out.

CS!
Wayne


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t.r.
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 02/14/08

Loc: Upstate NY
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: SkyShed]
      #5488673 - 10/25/12 01:49 PM

And to help others, what specifically were the fixes and how were they applied?

Edited by t.r. (10/25/12 01:50 PM)


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YetAnotherHobby
sage
*****

Reged: 09/02/09

Loc: Central CT
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: t.r.]
      #5488739 - 10/25/12 02:29 PM

The foam weatherstrip sealing the dome quadrant seams had failed. The original owner had supplemented the original rubber foam with some kind of external rubber sealant in the seams that had dried out and pulled free of the plastic dome halves, allowing water in. On top of that, I had transported the dome halves assembled, which likely jarred the joints loose, further weakening the weather stripping, and probably finishing off the external sealant.
The fix: I split the dome halves and replaced any foam that was dried out or overly compressed. The mating surfaces of the dome halves are like a rabbet joint, with 2-3 inches of overlap. The foam covers about 1/4 of the largest surface, so on the remaining surface I applied a generous bead of clear Lexel sealant. This is the type of sealant recommended as it sticks well to the Pod material. I then joined the halves together and installed all of the fasteners. With the dome halves still on the ground, I applied a bead of Lexel in the external seam between the two joined dome halves. Once this cured I popped the dome halves back on the observatory, bolted them up, and it's been dry in there ever since.


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Peter9
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/30/08

Loc: Yorkshire - Born & Bred
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: YetAnotherHobby]
      #5489761 - 10/26/12 06:51 AM

As a very happy owner of a Skyshed P.O.D (also second hand) I too can verify that you will not find a better relationship between the owner/vendor and his team, and the thousands of POD users around the world.

Many thanks Wayne for a great (leak prove) observatory and a great team.

Regards. Peter.


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Snaproll
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 02/20/04

Loc: Green Bay
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Peter9]
      #5496063 - 10/30/12 11:41 AM

All these problems were pretty much predicted, the excessive heat, the leaks, the mold, the blocked zenith, before the product was even produced. It is good to hear that the vendor is trying to support the product with patches and paid-for upgrades like the PZT, visor and shower cap for "chubby rain", but if properly designed, these things never would have been an issue in the first place.

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YetAnotherHobby
sage
*****

Reged: 09/02/09

Loc: Central CT
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Snaproll]
      #5496193 - 10/30/12 01:28 PM

I read quite a few forum posts discussing the merits and limitations of the Pod design before purchasing one.
1. I thought by using a GEM and offsetting the pier that I could avoid the zenith issue, but with a C11 that doesn't quite work.
2. I knew about the light blocking abilities of the pod, but I prefer the wide open design so that I can step back from the scope and see the whole sky in context. A slotted dome excels at blocking ambient light, but in my opinion you lose the connection with the night sky.
3. A Rolloff would offer the wide open view (sort of) but it would require more money and much more time to build, and it would not be something I could quickly dismantle if I move.
So I have to disagree that the Pod design is deficient unless you put up some kind of spec against which to judge its merits. For my own requirements it's the best answer.


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Peter9
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/30/08

Loc: Yorkshire - Born & Bred
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Snaproll]
      #5499031 - 11/01/12 08:52 AM

Quote:

All these problems were pretty much predicted, the excessive heat, the leaks, the mold, the blocked zenith, before the product was even produced. It is good to hear that the vendor is trying to support the product with patches and paid-for upgrades like the PZT, visor and shower cap for "chubby rain", but if properly designed, these things never would have been an issue in the first place.




The PZT offers the option of turning the P.O.D into a full R.O.R type of obs (something which the slotted type obs can not do) as well as allowing full access to the Zenith.
The visor is not a cure for anything. It again is adding to the versatility of the P.O.D by allowing the user to turn the half opening clam shell domed P.O.D into a slotted obs and back again in a matter of seconds. Again, this is something other types of obs can not offer. The visor also helps to block stray light and /or give added protection from breezes etc should the need arise.
As for the rain cap, all types of obs leak if not sealed correctly. A few, choose how hard the user tries to stop it, just leak. Only Skyshed, as far as I know, offer a cure. All credit to them.
The Skyshed P.O.D is a wonderfully designed obs allowing the user full sky views whilst offering protection against the elements etc. It is a joy to use.

Regards. Peter.


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Snaproll
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 02/20/04

Loc: Green Bay
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Peter9]
      #5499861 - 11/01/12 08:21 PM

I've used a pod and owned three observatories, two Exploradomes and an Astrogazer. The pod and Exploradome have their pros and cons. This is my experience with them:

Hands down, the Exploradome wins from a standpoint of wind, dew and light protection while you are using it. When you're not using it, it wins hands down in keeping the interior at reasonable temperature levels and keeping the elements (rain) out.

The one and only "pro" that I could see with a pod is that you can "see the sky". You can see the sky from a roll-off for a lot less money.

When it comes to interior room for a scope, the Exploradome again wins hands down. There is no second dome half that has to fold inside the other half. This allows a lot more headroom in the Exploradome. I run a C14 with a full-lengthed dew shield. There is no part of the sky I can't get to or image.

The Exploradome opens 14 inches past the zenith, so there is no permanent 16" obstruction directly over your scope. When the pod was under development the issue of the blind zenith became apparent, yet the design continued. There was a CAD drawing showing how a GEM mount could "look out from under" the overhang. This might be true if you are trying to look straight up. As pointed out by a friend of mine that owns a pod, any view east or west sets the scope further back under the blindspot with a GEM mount.

I was highly interested in the pod when it was first proposed. Then I realized through some observatory planning software a friend did for me, that if I wanted to image anywhere near the zenith with my 10" SCT and top mounted guidescope, I would practically have to put the scope into the south wall to escape the overhead pie pan blocking the zenith. This was not exceptable and I went with the Exploradome.

When the pod was first delivered, the zenith issue was minimized by the vendor, that it applied only to 'zenith crazed' individuals. Eventually the complaints grew until the PZT patch was devised (and charged for). Since the dome is shoved off onto this table in one direction, I've always been curious as to what kind of wind protection one has if they shove the dome off to the south and there is a cold north wind.

As far as the leaks and heat, those issues were apparent during the month long "beta test". The units went right into production and eventually there was the "shower cap" to try and stop the 'chubby rain'. There was also an "insulated" model with foam inside the panels for 'extreme' heat applications. I think this option was discontinued because the panels warped when the heat expanded the plastic and the insulation didn't expand.

My white exterior, black lined Exploradome never runs more than about 4 degrees over ambient, even in bright 100 degree sunlight. With the black liner to cut the IR, there is no need to spray Kralon paint or staple insulation all over the inside. Heck, one friend spent a couple hundred bucks on solar fans, attic fans, insulation and staples trying to get the heat problems under control.

As far as the light and dew protection, one time I was using a pod with a quarter moon out. I was SHOCKED... the thing was GLOWING inside. The light was transfusing right through the plastic. The Exploradome does not transmit any light through it (due to the molded in black liner).

As far as wind protection, a pod with that visor (again another modification to overcome a problem that is a paid for option) would certainly be better than wide open, but even further limiting interior room.

These are just the simple facts on the two products. I think the pod is over priced for what you get (you can get the same functionality out of a roll-off for a fraction of the price). The thing was supposed to be portable but I don't recall anyone actually using it as a 'portable' where it is torn down and reassembled for a weekend star party. (If you are looking for that functionality, look into the Astrogazer). My second Exploradome was a portable that was trailerable and could be set up at a star party as a single unit in 10 minutes.

Understand I am not knocking the pod, just giving it my honest opinion and experiences with using different observatories. Many folks have found that they work for them and that's ok. Others have found they didn't work out because of these shortcomings and switched to the Exploradome, (including some beloved telescope superchargers). Others liked the pod base and retrofitted an Exploradome dome on top of the bottom panels. I think the Exploradome even offered some kind of retro kit for those that scrapped their clamshells.

Anyway, gee, compared to what metal or fiberglass domes cost, the the plastic observatories are a bargain. They are still expensive, and I think it is important for folks to know just what they are getting into, so they make the right choice for what they need.


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Tim Gilliland
professor emeritus


Reged: 03/28/09

Loc: Sand Springs Okla.
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Snaproll]
      #5500534 - 11/02/12 08:29 AM

I have an Exploradome also. If I primarily planned on viewing from it maybe the POD would be a better choice. But I don't. I image from my obs and rarely view from it. More often than not I am imaging from the Dome and then view from the driveway while the exposure's are running. That way I get the advantages of the Exploradome for imaging and the wide open Sky's when viewing. I really think it is a matter of what the intended use is. I am extremely happy with my choice.

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SkyShed
Vendor (Sky Shed)


Reged: 05/23/05

Loc: Staffa , ON
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Snaproll]
      #5502447 - 11/03/12 01:53 PM

Hi Jim,

After reading your advice to CN members about POD over the years, I'd be most happy to call you to clear up some of the misconceptions you have about it.

If you could PM me with your number I'd be happy to call for a chat.

CS!
Wayne


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Agatha
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 06/04/12

Loc: Coulee Region, Wisconsin
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: SkyShed]
      #5502475 - 11/03/12 02:24 PM

I have no POD experience, but I plan to. I am still a beginner and my observing skills are lacking. Much of this is due to bad location (light pollution) and injuries making it very difficult to take equipment down a flight of stairs and through many doors. My plan is to move to a more rural location and have an observatory. I have been looking for years now and I know that a POD is in my future. I've read an endless amount of pros and cons of several designs...clamshell, slotted and ror . I even know what color I will go with...and yes, some of the options. I can't wait. My move will happen within the next year. I will be sure to post when I have my brand new POD in my own backyard. And, please, don't even try to talk me into something else. More to come at a later date.

Best to all, Linda B.


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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Agatha]
      #5502485 - 11/03/12 02:31 PM

Linda, congratulations on your future move, and your new POD! I'm very excited for you; this will open up a whole new world for you; or should I say, a whole new night sky!

We'll look forward to this exciting time for you!


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Agatha
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 06/04/12

Loc: Coulee Region, Wisconsin
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5502536 - 11/03/12 03:06 PM

Carol,

I really look forward to it too. Thank you.

Best, Linda B.


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mozzie
journeyman
*****

Reged: 09/19/10

Loc: australia
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Agatha]
      #5502845 - 11/03/12 07:25 PM

hi all,
i have had a pod for 3 years know.one of the first shipments to australia it has never failed or leaked water we have extreme heats and humidity where i live and i would recommend the pod covers just to settle the tempts down a little..if i had any issuses or questions wayne would pm or email within hours the service is unbelievable and some big buisness should take note of customer service...i use a 14" meade sct visual and yes i did trim the dew cover a couple of inches to fit within the second dome..this to me is nothing to be able to walk down to the pod and be observing within 2 minutes is a god scent and any cloud or rain your packed up in just as much time.excellent value for money even halfway around the world


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Agatha
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 06/04/12

Loc: Coulee Region, Wisconsin
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: mozzie]
      #5504068 - 11/04/12 03:06 PM

That is a wonderful testimonial. Thank you.

Best, Linda B.


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Startraffic
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 02/12/06

Loc: Lat. 39.143345, Long. -77.1748...
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Agatha]
      #5504273 - 11/04/12 05:35 PM

Geoff,
I've had my 2nd or 3rd hand XL3 for 3-4 years. When I got it, it leaked like a sieve. It needed to be resealed and gaskets. Since I replaced them it changed from a POS to a great dome. Had I simply WATCHED the vidoes that Wayne had put together I would've saved myself a lot of grief.

Wayne,
A great product! I just wish I had room for the MAX!

Clear Dark Skies
Startraffic
39.138274 -77.168898
Alt 518ft ASL


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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: mozzie]
      #5504294 - 11/04/12 05:49 PM

Welcome to Cloudy Nights! Glad to have you join us on the forums, especially our little corner here in Observatories.

Thanks for your post of experience with your POD.


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mozzie
journeyman
*****

Reged: 09/19/10

Loc: australia
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5504503 - 11/04/12 08:22 PM

thanks for the welcome.....i just say things as i see them or use them.....

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SkyShed
Vendor (Sky Shed)


Reged: 05/23/05

Loc: Staffa , ON
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: mozzie]
      #5504877 - 11/05/12 02:34 AM

Thanks folks! Always remember...RTMF!

CS!
Wayne


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Ed Wiley
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 05/18/05

Loc: Kansas, USA
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: SkyShed]
      #5505931 - 11/05/12 08:24 PM

Never had a leak in my Pod except a bit around the base on one side during an exceptional thunderstorm. I have the PZT and think it is essential, at least for a GEM. I am 67 and have no trouble with moving the dome unto the PZT.

Ed


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mistyridge
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/28/05

Loc: Loomis, CA
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Ed Wiley]
      #5509355 - 11/08/12 02:53 AM

I have a POD XL3. It is going on 2 years old now. I assembled the dome using liberal amounts of Lexal sealant. It has never leaked. The only moisture comes in around the base of the walls due to wicking through the concrete pad. Summer heat has been the only issue, but, then I do not spend any time inside when it is over 100 degrees outside. My mount is not affected by the heat and I keep my scopes in the house so they are close to ambient at night when I put them on the mount.

For those of you who have a PZT, how does it work. Do you have to lift the whole POD dome off the rollers. If so that seems like a two man job.


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Bob Griffiths
Getting Grouchy
*****

Reged: 10/10/05

Loc: Frederick Maryland
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: mistyridge]
      #5509605 - 11/08/12 09:46 AM

I do not honestly not a Pod fan... (not knocking them but they do not meet my needs...

BUT Mike the few I have seen with the PZT do not require much effort (or time) to slide it back off...

I just would not worry about having to exert the effort ..

Bob G.


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mclewis1
Thread Killer
*****

Reged: 02/25/06

Loc: New Brunswick, Canada
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Bob Griffiths]
      #5509822 - 11/08/12 11:46 AM

The PZT kit comes with HDPE ramps (same material the POD itself if made from). Careful placement of the ramps on the table means the dome doesn't need to be lifted much at all. You just get the edge up from the top of the ramp onto the wall. So it's more pulling than lifting with the PZT, which makes it very easy.

The PZT does add to the time to open and close up the POD but it adds so much to the use of the POD that it's well worth the couple of extra minutes. It's faster opening the whole thing up (flip up the dome, pull the three quick releases, store the brackets, push the dome back onto the table). The close up process is the same but it's the pulling of the dome up onto the wall that takes a minute longer as you have to work on both sides of the dome to make sure they're properly positioned on the wall ... the brackets then lock everything in place.

It's a little daunting at first when you put together an 11-12' wide 3/4" plywood table (it goes around half the outside of the 8' diameter POD) but it's really not difficult for one person to assemble. It easily attaches to the POD with a second pair of hands. Once the PZT was setup on my POD I don't know how I did without it.


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mistyridge
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/28/05

Loc: Loomis, CA
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: mclewis1]
      #5510382 - 11/08/12 06:33 PM

Thanks Mark. There are times I want to see the whole sky such as finding the proper alignment stars.

Edited by mistyridge (11/08/12 06:40 PM)


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YetAnotherHobby
sage
*****

Reged: 09/02/09

Loc: Central CT
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: mistyridge]
      #5517856 - 11/13/12 12:41 PM

I replicated this PZT design from a fellow CloudyNights member. I bought the quick release brackets from Skyshed, and it works very well. One thing I like about this design over the plywood variety is that it won't accumulate much snow. The downside to the design is if you aren't careful to keep the dome more or less centered and perpendicular to the tracks the dome could fall. To guard against this I used 2x6s for the side tracks with a 2x4 "retaining wall" on the side to limit dome travel. The "tracks" are a fraction of an inch lower than the dome, so you just need to nudge the dome up and back a bit for the clamps to clear the rollers - it's actually very easy because you are never lifting a significant portion of the dome's weight at one time. I lift and push each end separately, which also tends to release the center latch. Once it's on the slides it is an easy shove to get it clear. To put it back in place is just the reverse, although with a little more jockeying from side to side to get the dome back on the rollers. But none of the motions requires much in the way of strength. It would probably be easier with the ramps, but I don't have any problem with it as-is. I still get the light blocking to the north where I need it, and I now have full zenith access in just a couple of minutes.

Geoff


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fred1871
professor emeritus


Reged: 03/22/09

Loc: Australia
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: YetAnotherHobby]
      #5537824 - 11/24/12 08:42 PM

The PZT looks useful for those wanting to see more sky, including the zenith, but I think Jim W (above, a few weeks back) summarised the issues with the POD pretty well.

I've not had significant leakage with mine, but I did buy the insulated cover because my Summer in Australia is not like Summer in Canada. Today, late Spring, the temperature was 29C (~85F) by 11am Sun Time and my refractor telescope tube was hot not warm to the touch because I hadn't put the cover on last night. The cover helps, but on the hottest days I still have to take down the OTA to avoid cooking it. Which I did this morning. On the wooden floor above the ground that my POD sits on, far less heating.

This for me is the biggest problem by far with the POD. I can live without the zenith, or get a PZT and hope my back holds up - but the heat issue is very troublesome. Taking down an OTA isn't too bad given the two scopes I have are around 9-10kg each for the OTA - but it wouldn't be possible if I upgraded to a Meade 12 or a C14 for example. They would fit in the dome, but the weight isn't practical for me for taking down and setting up. Too much weight. That's one reason I got a dome, to give up weightlifting.

Otherwise - having a dome is great. Best thing ever for regular observing. And the POD is just big enough (I'm not tall, at 5'9"). I have the 2-bay version so I can store stuff off the floor.

Where I am, the ExploraDome isn't an option due to cost - the big enough version plus freight across the ocean equals a second mortgage. But I'd love to have that level of insulation from heat. That's my major problem with the POD. The insulated cover reduces but doesn't solve the problem.


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mclewis1
Thread Killer
*****

Reged: 02/25/06

Loc: New Brunswick, Canada
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: fred1871]
      #5537922 - 11/24/12 10:05 PM

To effectively deal with the heat trapped at the peak of the dome in a POD I think you need to do two things:

1) Keep as much heat as possible out of the dome - this is where the insulated cover comes into play.
2) Circulate or better yet circulate and introduce cooler air. A small fan moving air from the waist level to the peak of the dome makes a real difference. Introducing cooler air (either from a cool air "sump" or from an air conditioning unit) makes a huge difference.

On really hot days I pull cooler air from under the deck my POD sits on (using a small bathroom style ventilation fan), on most summer days I just keep a small portable fan running.

Without any ventilation the temperatures at the peak of my POD dome were over 50C on the hottest days, with just the circulation fan running I generally see worst case temps in the 35C range, and with the cooler air being blown in the temps run about 5 cooler than that.


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fred1871
professor emeritus


Reged: 03/22/09

Loc: Australia
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: mclewis1]
      #5538260 - 11/25/12 04:33 AM

Thanks for the suggestions, Mark. I'll try something like that - pulling cooler air from under the platform (which is how I'm set up as well, on a wooden platform) sounds useful.

That you can have temperatures of 50C or more in a CAnadian climate is impressive in a negative way. Australian Summers are hotter than you get so my POD might hit 60C on the worst days without help, and over 40C with the insulation cover (outside, shade temperatures of 35 are not rare, and sometimes it reaches 40C). So there's a clear need for cooling and I don't want to install A/C. That's a last resort.

Thanks again for the ideas on how you use the fans.


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mclewis1
Thread Killer
*****

Reged: 02/25/06

Loc: New Brunswick, Canada
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: fred1871]
      #5538427 - 11/25/12 09:37 AM

Fred,

Yes, we don't normally talk about temperatures in the 50s around here ... lol. Those 50C numbers I measured came on a couple of days where the reported daily highs were in the low 30s C (high 80s F). They were measured right at the peak of the dome using a remote sensor from a home weather station, it was velcro mounted to edge of the secondary dome. There may have been some heat transfer from the actual dome itself but the air temperatures were not much different. At the same time the temperatures 12" lower (around the top of the scopes) were in the upper 40s C. So it's probably safe to assume that on sunny days with no air movement within the dome that someone could see a 15C difference between the outside and inside temperatures.


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Startraffic
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 02/12/06

Loc: Lat. 39.143345, Long. -77.1748...
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: fred1871]
      #5538487 - 11/25/12 10:28 AM

Fred,
I'm the 2nd-3rd owner of an XL3. The last owner install a 10" attic fan & thermostat that come on at a user set temp in one of the bay sides with louvers on the side of the bay. It works great now. It had considerable problems with leaking. I made an aluminum "awning" & rubber gasket siliconed & screwed above the louvers & sealed the louvers themselves. Since I sealed it up no more leaks & the fan can be allowed to do it job of cooling off the dome itself. I put a 7 drawer tool chest (http://www.harborfreight.com/7-drawer-red-end-cabinet-for-roller-tool-chest-68785.html) in the same bay for storage. Works like a champ. Temps don't get above ambient. It won't help much if your ambient is 105*f though. Some kind of sunscreen is your only real option. The highest ambient temp I get is ~105*f on the hottest summer day.

Clear Dark Skies
Startraffic
39.138274 -77.168898
518ft ASL


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wolfman_4_ever
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 07/15/11

Loc: El Segundo, Ca, So. Cal
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Startraffic]
      #5538916 - 11/25/12 03:07 PM

Absolutely love my pod!

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fred1871
professor emeritus


Reged: 03/22/09

Loc: Australia
Re: Skyshed Pod experience new [Re: Startraffic]
      #5539892 - 11/26/12 07:31 AM

Thanks, Startraffic - useful ideas.
I'll be checking out the best fan arrangements this Summer. Your arrangement sounds good.


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