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Old 06-12-2012, 01:42 PM   #1
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Midwest total do-over


Hi Guys! I'm new to this forum. My dad was a plumber and then heating / ac / water engineer, it runs in my blood I'm a high tech engineer. Did plenty of jobs on my cars, and now I am buying a foreclosure home which is on a very nice green lot in super convenient neighborhood, but is very small and has a completely messed up (broken or non-existent) systems. With the $$ saved on the cheap buy, I can now invest in great improvements. I am trying to gain total efficiency by planning and doing *all* improvements together. Now thinking through this, and September->November is time to build it all.

Here are the features of this place:

* runs on well water, no city water available (except at high $$). well water system is trash and needs replaced
* has city gas, furnace is trash
* electric water heater is trash
* has city sewer (not that it matters that much)
* has 1/2 acre lot (at least, will expand a bit as I am maneuvering the system)
* mid-west sump-pumpy part city, high water table
* floors all need complete do-over (except tiles in kitchen could stay)
* garage needs turned into a living room and it has an interesting high gabled roof which I want to use as a loft
* it's to tiny that more room is sorely needed: adding an addition of at least 24ft x 15ft, looking into digging basement
* need to rip out a dead tree in the yard, where the root is would be prefect place for an in-ground pool, so I will get all excavation work done in one fell swoop
* want to use the dirt for landscaping, creating good slope away from the home
* Where I'm from sump-pumps are "funny" to say it mildly, while I'm at it will put a decent perimeter drain and have dry basement that way

Now the idea:

* piggy-back a geothermal open-loop system on the water well, store heat in a large water heater tank at 120 degree F (not too hot to save energy wastage)
* from the tank run under-floor heating through all the house on all the floors
* install air heat pumps in some of the hotter spots in the house (e.g., under roofs)
* thinking about using the geothermal system for cooling in the summer (I have seen a big central AC in an office building once which ran entirely on water and even looked pretty)
* possibly abandoning the forced air ducts entirely, because I think single-room AC systems are more efficient as you use them only as needed (and that garage and addition would need to be ducted on the central system, quite far.)
* the open-loop geothermal system would make this home a water-home. I am thinking of waterfalls, pool(s), fountains and creeks, everywhere in the house and yard.
* while I am digging the foundation for the addition, I also need to bring down a dead tree in the yard, so I'll have them dig out the root too, which will be the place where the pool goes.
* with the perimeter drain and the open loop system and all that water in the home, need to design an environmentally healthy and sustainable system to return that water into my own yard. May be a pond.
* with all the dirt from the excavations, do landscaping to have slope away from the home and possibly build interesting landscape features, hills, etc. (Still hoping of annexing another 1/2 to 3/4 acre by buying off the neighbor's undeveloped lots, pure jungle in a (sub-)urban commercial center.)
* should there be any issue with not enough water, we'll fill the pool with rainwater
* if the geothermal system brings up so much water, then it would make sense to use that fact in the operation of the pool, i.e., have more water exchange than usual
* since all that water would be nice to have in the summer, it is even more important to somehow exploit this for the cooling function.

So, I'm sure if I ask an engineer, architect and contractor to do all that the price will more than double and still not be perfect. So I want to stay on top of that myself and rather hire any help, from man power to expert advice on hourly basis. Only problem is that being an hourly-fee consultant myself, my time is quite valuable, so, I am actually interested in getting relationships with people who might have fun doing some of this design and planning work with me. Like if someone likes to do drawings using software and has already taught themselves in doing that, I wouldn't mind paying for their help. Stuff like that.

Anyway, I'd appreciate any and all comments on this, and also, where on this forum would be a good place to discuss the integration of all these home engineering systems?

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Old 06-15-2012, 11:33 AM   #2
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Midwest total do-over


Hi, Looks like the green building forum is not as active as some of the others but I'm really interested in green projects and have one of my own going!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guber View Post
I am buying a foreclosure home which is on a very nice green lot in super convenient neighborhood, but is very small and has a completely messed up (broken or non-existent) systems. With the $$ saved on the cheap buy, I can now invest in great improvements. I am trying to gain total efficiency by planning and doing *all* improvements together. Now thinking through this, and September->November is time to build it all.
Ditto for us but in Colorado and starting with an 80's already green structure that has some major issues and needs partial rebuilding.

Quote:
Here are the features of this place:

* runs on well water, no city water available (except at high $$). well water system is trash and needs replaced
* has city gas, furnace is trash
* electric water heater is trash
* has city sewer (not that it matters that much)
* has 1/2 acre lot (at least, will expand a bit as I am maneuvering the system)
* mid-west sump-pumpy part city, high water table
* floors all need complete do-over (except tiles in kitchen could stay)
* garage needs turned into a living room and it has an interesting high gabled roof which I want to use as a loft
* it's to tiny that more room is sorely needed: adding an addition of at least 24ft x 15ft, looking into digging basement
* need to rip out a dead tree in the yard, where the root is would be prefect place for an in-ground pool, so I will get all excavation work done in one fell swoop
* want to use the dirt for landscaping, creating good slope away from the home
* Where I'm from sump-pumps are "funny" to say it mildly, while I'm at it will put a decent perimeter drain and have dry basement that way
Sounds like you bought the place for the lot!

Quote:
Now the idea:

* piggy-back a geothermal open-loop system on the water well, store heat in a large water heater tank at 120 degree F (not too hot to save energy wastage)
* from the tank run under-floor heating through all the house on all the floors
I like the under floor heating idea with the well providing the preheated water--I'm looking at a heat exchange system with ground loops and solar boost using evacuated tubes.
Quote:
* install air heat pumps in some of the hotter spots in the house (e.g., under roofs)
* thinking about using the geothermal system for cooling in the summer (I have seen a big central AC in an office building once which ran entirely on water and even looked pretty)
Are you talking about redundant systems here? Does geothermal cooling require heat pump type of boost? Maybe in Indiana due to the humidity?
Quote:
* possibly abandoning the forced air ducts entirely, because I think single-room AC systems are more efficient as you use them only as needed (and that garage and addition would need to be ducted on the central system, quite far.)
* the open-loop geothermal system would make this home a water-home. I am thinking of waterfalls, pool(s), fountains and creeks, everywhere in the house and yard.
You might use the air ducts for a dehumidification/ventilation system. It is best to separate the ventilation from the heat system. Have you read about ERV/HRV?
Quote:
* while I am digging the foundation for the addition, I also need to bring down a dead tree in the yard, so I'll have them dig out the root too, which will be the place where the pool goes.
* with the perimeter drain and the open loop system and all that water in the home, need to design an environmentally healthy and sustainable system to return that water into my own yard. May be a pond.
* with all the dirt from the excavations, do landscaping to have slope away from the home and possibly build interesting landscape features, hills, etc. (Still hoping of annexing another 1/2 to 3/4 acre by buying off the neighbor's undeveloped lots, pure jungle in a (sub-)urban commercial center.)
* should there be any issue with not enough water, we'll fill the pool with rainwater
* if the geothermal system brings up so much water, then it would make sense to use that fact in the operation of the pool, i.e., have more water exchange than usual
* since all that water would be nice to have in the summer, it is even more important to somehow exploit this for the cooling function.
This will take time! Are you planning to invest in your own earth moving equipment or hire someone?
Quote:
So, I'm sure if I ask an engineer, architect and contractor to do all that the price will more than double and still not be perfect. So I want to stay on top of that myself and rather hire any help, from man power to expert advice on hourly basis. Only problem is that being an hourly-fee consultant myself, my time is quite valuable, so, I am actually interested in getting relationships with people who might have fun doing some of this design and planning work with me. Like if someone likes to do drawings using software and has already taught themselves in doing that, I wouldn't mind paying for their help. Stuff like that.
I found some great resources to help update my green systems knowledge. Have you read Greenbuildingadvisor.com? Energystar? BuildingScience.com?
I'm using an architect for the plans but also designing on my own with a free floorplan layout software--Sweet Home 3D. I hired a green building advisor for LEED but mostly I'm doing my own research. I also hired a landscape architect for LEED planning, experts in natural and native planting--but I have not gotten any plans yet. Together this added a large amount of money to the job--about $15,000 just for plans--no physical work involved. Will take a lot longer to get the house ready to move though--I figure at least a year.

Quote:
Anyway, I'd appreciate any and all comments on this, and also, where on this forum would be a good place to discuss the integration of all these home engineering systems?
I'm new to the forums but hope to learn the answer to this question too! I'd like to see pics of your project! Before and after are particularly fun to see.

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Old 06-22-2012, 10:46 AM   #3
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Midwest total do-over


I'm new here and not terribly well versed in your proposed green projects. I am, however, really glad that you've posted this (both of you, actually) and hope you post pictures and keep everyone posted on your progress.

Green is the way to go after all!
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:07 PM   #4
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Midwest total do-over


Here are a few opinions:

For heat, it is hard to beat underfloor radiant. Electric could be used in a pinch (for example, the garage floor), but best would be hot water and the fact that you need to replace the floors literally screams for radiant!

I have an almost 100 year old home in SW KS and use window units IF the A/C is needed. "WHAT??? "IF", you say?" Exactly! The house's exterior walls are poured concrete, probably 8" thick, and the flat roof has a foam roofing substance on it with that shiny, aluminum looking "aluminized" roofing tar (my term, best way I can describe the stuff....I think it is used primarily on RV and mobil home roofs??).

Here's what I do: When I go to bed at night I place a box fan in an eastern window, pulling air into the home. I also have an exhaust fan in a western window. What results is a great airflow through the house for the entire night, replacing all the air that the home has heated during the day with cool air. When I get up in the morning all I do is shut off the fans. The net result is that in the 90 days I spent there during the late spring and early summer last year, some of which were very windy and in the upper 90's or low 100's, I never did NEED the A/C (although I did turn it on in the living room and each of the two upstairs bedrooms a few times for 10 minutes just to make sure the units were lubed up and didn't freeze up). The house stayed cool all day as long as I didn't go in and out 100 times a day, and I have ceiling fans in every room except for the dining room and the kitchen, which I use religiously! I see no use for a central system....you might well be able to manage with just such a system if your home is well insulated (or, could be...use closed cell spray foam for that, it has a huge R-factor advantage over the open cell version). IMHO the silver coating on the roof acts as a radiant barrier, reflecting solar heat back into the atmosphere on hot days.

For your info, the house was constructed in 1922...even had the knob and tube wiring in it when we bought it in 1963, so I doubt it has any insulation in it EXCEPT for the 6" fiberglass I installed above the kitchen's suspended ceiling.

Since you have city gas, consider a gas-fired HWOD unit. I bid the natural gas company a fond adeiu where my home is located, went all electric, but it was a short-sighted decision. I spent HUGE sums of $$ (over $2K) changing from 100 amp overhead service to 200 amp underground service just so that there would be adequate power to operate the HWOD unit....will NEVER save that much money no matter how long I live, but it was a matter of principal to me. At any rate, my electricity bill has NEVER been over $75/month, even in the coldest months I have spent there (March can be very cold in SW KS), so the electric HWOD unit obviously doesn't suck much energy once it has heated up the heating chambers. In your case, you'll probably realize significant money savings after 5-7 years, as gas is a much cheaper way to heat water than electrical.

Take advantage of the southern exposures in your home. If you have windows, consider dark floor coverings...in my case the carpeting is still in great shape and is a light beige, but I put dark blankets on the floor where the sun shines in and it is amazing how much they help with heating the house.

If you need a supplementary source of heat for the cold months, consider a 120V portable infrared heater. I invested in one last year and was amazed at how quickly the infrared rays made the room feel warm...just wear dark clothing and they'll soak up the IR rays, keeping you warm. Nothing I have used so far, and I have tried many types of 120V electric heaters, has done as well as the IR heater (it was just my luck that the home's floor furnace was gas-fired, too..... ).

Geothermal is the way to go if you can afford the installation costs...the frostline is about 5' down where my home is located, and if I were to rent a Ditch-Witch I might be able to do geothermal...will be a future project!

Cheers....and good luck. How about keeping us updated on your plans and your progress?

Dugly
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