We purchased our new home after Christmas 2017 and started an ambitious remodel, completely gutting the basement to add a second master space and create a Data Center. We also elected to covert it to 100% geothermal heating and air-conditioning and install tankless hot water (to supplement the "free" geothermal hot water). Geothermal is dedicated to the geothermal installation process and results.
Pictures to Process
Just uploading these for now, I need to add the background later.
The house came with a decent asphault driveway. We tore it up building the addition and burying the geothermal under it, as well as just running construction equipment over it for 3 years. And, I seriously dislike it. Concrete is King. Long live the King. Anyway, we're preparing to install the new driveway, with a largish parking area, an electric rolling gate with mail drop and package drop and camera/entry kepad and lights. It should be pretty pimp, though it is going to be terribly expensive...
Property Line/Survey Documentation
Here is some documentation of the property line from the survey we had done.
On the North side (925) in the back the property line is just outside of the old wire fencing, outside of the white fencing and beyond the new gas installation and well outside of the chain link fencing in the back corner. There is an old abandoned well or sewer access behind the chainlink fence.
Across the back the property line is just outside of the chainlink fence. There is a momument at the Trelawny back corner, and on the tennis/dog run corner.
On the Trewlany (915/935) side (South), the property is just inside the split rail fence where the tennis court used to be, but we own the dog run, and the side yard runs just inside the split rail fence.
Across the front, there is a momument just outside the fence on the 925/915 corner, and the property runs just outside the fence to a monument just beyond the garage near the driveway.
We bought this house to get closer to the city, but still have some property and privacy, and to move my in-laws in. They don't need help now, but they might someday, and my wife wanted to be able to spend some quality time with them as they enjoy their retirement. We wanted to get them single-floor living, so if they do end up needing surgeries or have any mobility issues it won't be that hard, but we didn't want to give up having our own very nice space either.
This house provided that opportunity, it's large enough, and although it has a sunken family room and a couple steps to get into, is pretty flat with a first floor master, kitchen, laundry, and office for them. It also sits well up, so the spacious basement is only about 3' under grade, and so we were able to put in lots of windows and build a complete second master bedroom, bath, closet, full office, kitchen, and family room in the basement, in addition to a billiards room (it came with a table) and the data center.
It has 3 bedrooms upstairs for guests, and with the geothermal heating and air system we were able to zone it with 7 independent zones of heating an air so everyone can be comfortable (and we have tankless hot water for unlimited showering and laundry). When done it will really be extremely nice. One of the nice features of this home is every floor has a long, straight central hallway with stairs at both ends. This does make it hard to locate people, though, as it's big and they might be using the other stairwell.
A nice feature that I worked into the basement remodel is sound throughout. Our last house had built-in speakers, and I really liked it. I'd paired those (driven by simple stand-alone amplifiers) to Apple Airport Express units so I could "Airplay" music to them. Around the time we moved I got interested in the Sonos Connect:Amp product as an integrated amplifier and connected-device in one unit. I picked up a few for the first floor and really liked those, so I bought a bunch (7) more for the basement and threw them into the data center, one for each major room (although the master bedroom and closet share a unit/zone). I wanted to keep the power and data infrastructure in the rack, with UPS (battery backup) and the Tivos, etc. so I mounted local volume controls in each room and ran the main speaker wire back to the data center. This is nice because although you can control the overall volume from the Sonos app, and easily group and ungroup the Amps into multiple independent areas and individually or collectively control the volume, sometimes when you're actually in the room it seems too loud. The Sonos allows a lot of different music sources, Apple Music, Amazon, Plex, your iTunes library, TuneIn, and Line in. I'm using one Line In from an Airport Express to enable Airplay, which the original Sonos do not support, and I had another big idea. My older Apple TV (the new ones did away with it) and Tivos all have Digital Audio Output. I ran Toslink/SPDIF cable from each TV location to the data center, and picked up some digital-to-analog converters for the data center and connected the analog side to the individual Sonos amps, and now I can output my TV sound to the built-in speakers! Too cool, and great for Superbowl parties and the like.
Another idea this enabled is the "TV behind a 2-way mirror" trick! I built in a TV mount behind my vanity mirror and placed electric, network, and digital audio inside the space, and an IR receiver/retransmitter into the mirror mount so I could turn the TV on and off, and now I can watch TV through the mirror and get the sound on the in-ceiling speakers!
Basement Master Bedroom
Our master bedroom is about 17'x18' with french doors opening to the rear stairway next to the "extra" shower and basement entrance to the addition. The addtion has a walkout set of french doors that gives us easy access to the hot tub. We enlarged the window area to three 3'x5' windows for natural light, which open to the side yard at grade behind the addition overlooking the wooded creek, so it's pretty private. The master has it's own zone of HVAC, a security panel, and connects to a small hallway between the master bath and closet thorugh a pocket door so I can get up and get ready for work without distrubing Elizabeth. It has 9' ceilings iwth a fan, and the same brushed, exterior-grade Italian marble that the basement has thorughout.
The electrical outlets above the windows are for HomeKit remote controlled/powered blinds or shades that will open and close automatically based on time of day, day of the week, and weather (or difference between indoor and outdoor temperature and sunniness).
Basement Master Closet
The master closet is about 18'x18' with an additional pocket of about 9'x4' where our stacking washer and dryer will go. It has sound, just like every other room in the basement, and the walls are covered with IKEA storage cabinets with white glass doors with soft-close sliders and automatic lighting that comes on when the door is opened. This will provide tons of hanging storage as well as a bunch of shelving, and a (not yet pictured/installed) island will house our sundries (socks and undies) and give us a place to lay your wallet and keys down while changing, and it will have a bench on either end to sit on while you put your shoes and socks on. I really, really like everything to be tidy, and these cabinets are a nice compromise since Elizabeth doesn't ahve to put everything away every single day for it to appear tidy.
The closet, like most of the rooms in the basement has HomeKit WiFi controllable, and dimmable lighting switches in the wall, so that with dimmable LED bulbs mounted I can achieve nearly any lighting level. My idea is to have a motion sensor in the connector hallway (which has it's own lighting circuit) that will turn on the lights in the master bathroom and closet at a low (15% mabye) level when I get up so I can safely reach them, but dim enough not to disturb anyone until I can get the pocket door closed behind me. Then I can raise the light level to whatever level I want.
In the rear wall are shut-off valves for the water going to the pool cabana. We had them piped to the drain in the utility room while we were building, so we can just open the access panel and drain the cabana each fall directly to the sewer. Around the corner from the main set of cabinets is a nook for a full size stackable washer/dryer.
Basement Master Bathroom
The master bathroom is about 15'x15', with a 9'x5' glass surround shower as the main feature, and a double vanity. Behind the mirror on my side of the vanity is a TV, with the sound wiring I mentioned above so I can listen to the morning new on the built in speakers from my Tivo or watch AppleTV. These both have RF remotes, but I have a IR repeater for the TV on/off function. The toilet is next to the shower, and as I mentioned we installed 2 of the largest tankless water heaters to make sure we can run both sets of rainheads and body-sprays without running out of hot water. The shower surround is marble countertop material, so it's way thicker than it needs to be, and we decided to cover the entire wall since the glass will give the room a seamless look.
Note that the floor has zero transition, but gently slopes to the back wall where the shower heads are. The glass surround will have a center door, and you can just see that there is a trench drain about 6" wide with a removable stone inlay, with about 1/4" drain slit all the way around, 4' wide for each shower head. Similarly the ceiling is gently sloped towards the back wall (since the entire space is enclosed) to keep moisure from forming on the tile overhead and dripping on us. Instead it will gently flow towards the drains as well. The glass will be treated with a special anti-spotting coating. Also note that we have installed "real" grab-bars in the shower and at all the toilets in the basement. For one, it's nice to have something to grab onto, and for two I hate seeing tile broken by a soap dish that's been pulled away. And since we installed all 3' doors in the basement, it's technical ADA compliant should it ever need to be. And it'll be nice the next time one of us wrenches a back. :-)
The door to the hallway will probably never really get used as the bath also has a door out the back to the pantry, and from there to the kitchen which is what I'm sure we'll use the majority of the time. Also note the center cabinet that will hide Elizabeth hair dryer, spin toothbrush, and curling iron, etc., with outlets inside. It cleverly lifts up for access, again to get things tidy.
The kitchen gets the same stone Versailles pattern as the rest of the basement. It's way more kitchen than we really need, but in a million dollar home, you kind of need to do certain finish levels. The kitchen is about 18'x18' with another 15'x5' or so for our dining room table. It has a large island in the middle with a overhanging bar area for stools with the sink and diswasher built-in. The opposite wall will have a fancy Wolf gas range, and stainless fridge and microwave with full-height stone backsplash. The vent required for such a large range was problematic and required additional make-up air provisions I don't even want to think about.
All of the cabinets are internally lighted with drawer lights that come on when opened, a feature we really liked in our old house's IKEA cabinets. The upper cabinets have downlighting as well as hidden outlets so that there are no vible openings in the stone. The same is true on the island were the outlets are mounted on the sides in the cabinets, and all of the drawers are soft-close. We got all Wolf/Cove/Sub-Zero (it's one company) appliances, except the main fridge. There's a mini fridge in the bar for pool or TV drinks, and the dishwasher has LED lights inside and WiFi, as well as a light system that shows if the load is done because it's so quiet. A red dot on the floor means it's running, green means done (see below).
The "Dining Room" is just a little slice of the kitchen and family room stolen for the table, but it's more than we really need, especially with the stools on the edge of the kitchen island. On the long (rear of house) end of the kitchen/dining space is a wall of cabinets, the uppers of which are non-functional - they hide a HVAC duct and soffit, but the lowers are also lighted and have more adjustable pantry shelving. There is a door between the kitchen and the coffee bar/pantry that is decorated/hidden as a cabinet door.
The pantry is only about 8'x8', as we don't really cook much we don't need a ton of storage. But we do need a few staples, and Elizabeth piped water from the bathroom wall to where our countertop will go for her professional Keurig coffee maker. Each upper cabinet is getting under-cabinet lighting.
The walls get the same subway tile as the powder room, and the one wall will get a kitty-sized door to the utility room where the litty box will be kept. The outer side of the pantry door (in the kitchen) will get cabinet doors so it blends into the cabinetry in there.
The basement office is my room. It's got the same fan as the master, and 2 big escape-sized windows. The window well has egress stairs, and with the closets and smoke detector make it a legal bedroom. I'll make one of the closets standard and the other will have a bunch of extra shelves for my computer stuff. The two big windows open onto the driveway and fountain, which is nice, and bring in a bunch of light. Since we didn't want to waste that light we installed 12 light glass french doors onto the hallway.
I'll have my wrap-around computer desk setup with dual monitors on my main iMac and antoher workstation for Elizabeth's MacBook or either of our work laptops. The room is wired with dual 10G copper and dual 10G fiber to the data center. Also the side wall is wired for a TV, and I plan to put my futon opposite for naps or for catching a game while I work on something. Also, since my security cameras are available on AppleTV, every one of these TVs duals as a security monitor.
Basement Family Room
The family room is 25'x20', and has a foyer and bar next to a walkout to the back yard pool area. We ran electric in the slab to where the couch will sit (it's an electric recliner, and for phone chargers or laptops, etc.), and mounted a TV mount, and added a built-in gas fireplace.
The big french doors on our side of the hallway (our master suite with walk-in closet, bath, pantry, kitchen, family room, dining room, bar and walk-out the pool are all on the west side of the house's main hallway so we can close it off) can all be held open with these cool magnetic latches with built-in spring-dampener systems so they gently grab and hold the door if you open it a little too briskly. Very cool.
The bar was a tiny little mini-kitchen (without any cooktop but a fridge) when we bought the place. It wasn't big enough for our needs, so we repuposed it into a bar with a mini-fridge under counter for pool drinks mostly. I don't need a bar, but it was there...
Much like the kitchen, the backwall is one large piece of stone with no opens for power outlets. Here the base of the cabinet hides the outlets and the glass-front cabinets are lighted.
Basement Billiards Room
The billiards room is 20'x15'. I didn't need a billiards room, but we got the table "free" when we bought the house, and everybody else wanted to keep it.
Basement Powder Room
The basement powder room is just a small toilet and vanity across from the family room, with a pocket door. It's next to the "Craft room" which is very small now, and is really just a hallway to the data center.
...it's a hallway...
The extra shower and bathrooom is a nice feature. It already existed, so we thought there was no other really good use for the space, so we kept it and just made it a little smaller, giving what used to be the vanity to the hallway to the addition. It's about 8'x8' with a standup shower with subway tile and a glass surround, a toilet and small vanity.
Basement Craft Room
The craft room really doesn't have much left over after the Data Center and Powder room were broken off, but still has some cabinets and sink.
Basement Data Center
See Data Center
We're building an addition onto the house as well as the remodel (below). Mostly we wanted some additional garage space, so we're mirroring the existing 3 car with an identical space - with my in-laws there are 4 driving adults in the house, plus lawn care equipment and workshop space. Because the existing garage has a small piece of house leading out to it, we also chose to miror this space, which will give us some additional living space we didn't really need, but it doesn't hurt to have. In the basement it will be a storage space with a walk-out to the back yard and steps into the new garage. On the first floor it will be a workout/exercise room, and an additional guest bedroom/suite (with kitchenette). There will be storage over the garage as well.
Addition Workout Room
The fitness room has several really nice big windows at the first-floor level, and will be filled with (mostly) exercise equipment we bought from the previous owners - including a Gold's Gym universal machine, a stair stepper, a treadmill, and elliptical trainer and some free weights. We also picked up a rowing maching/recumbant bike trainer. There will be two TVs on the wall that joins to the existing house, and a couple of fans. There are outlets in the floor for the machines and will be a yoga mat and ceiling mounted speakers.
Workout room video
Addition Guest Suite
The guest suite is going to be the really nice bedroom on the second floor for our guests, although we already have 3 pretty nice bedrooms up there. This one will have a double-french-door "Juliet balcony" to the backyard, and walk-in closet and on-suite shower, and work desk, bed with fan and it's own thermostat for comfort, TV and kitchenette and apartment-sized laundry. The shower is getting the same tile as the rest of the addition, but cut down into minature sizes. Looks pretty cool.
The new garage is finally starting to come along, so I'll flesh this out a bit. Since there's 4 of us, all driving adults, we wanted at least 4 parking spots, and I need a place for my lawn tractor and yard tools and a work bench. We opted to build a mirror image of the existing garage to keep everything looking symetrical, which also meant building a bit of house since the existing garage connects to the main house with a hallway with some minor rooms.
The roof is a little unique. It's a pretty standard black shingle on the back, mostly because there will be so much covered by solar panels. The front is a pretty grey plastic dimensional shingle (DaVinci) that mimics slate, and is supposed to last 50 years.
My workshop will have a work bench and ceiling-mounted sound system and a sink.
The garage is getting RaceDeck™ garage tiles (12"x12") in a grey-on-grey checkerboard pattern. I wanted something to snaz it up a bit, and we'd tried epoxy in a previous house. That was OK, but was prone to getting really dirty, where these can replaced if a few get bad, and hot tires can pull epoxy off of the floor. Also these were a little cheaper than paint. Unfortunately we wanted to do the open "Free Flow" tiles under the cars (for snow and rain to drain and not make the floor slippery) and solid "Coin" tiles everywhere else, but once we got the 1,000 tiles (250 of each style) our tile guy found that the FreeFlow were slightly (~1/8") bigger, and after about 2 rows would no longer interlock!!! Fortunately RaceDeck™ and our retailer (Colorado Garage Flooring) agreed to cover shipping the uncut coin tiles back and replacing them with Free Flow.
Some finishing touches. I installed doorbells on our garage door and back door (in case you get locked out while in the hot tub!). This will let our guests ring our door only downstairs, and the Szoke's guests to ring the front door (and only ring them!).
Addition Basement Storage / Elizabeth's Office
We decided to make this an office for Elizabeth late in the process. It's probably bigger than it needs to be, but it is what it is.
Addition Attic Storage / Au Pair Suite
Over the new garage we created a storage area, but it has an attached bath/shower in case we want to make it a bedroom for a caretaker/au-pair (and it's fitted with it's own HVAC zone, CO and smoke detectors).
Our new HVAC system has steam humidification and UV lamps for virus destruction.
Energy and Energy Efficiency
In 2017 there was still a 30% Federal tax credit for residential geothermal installations, and since we bought a big house with HVAC units right at the edge of their life expectancy my (accountant) wife talked me into replacing everything with geo. Geothermal startup was in March 2019.
We opted for the Climate Master Trilogy (Heat/AC/Hot Water) systems, a pair of 4 ton units, and a 3 ton split system for the upstairs - that's because there was no good way to get the geo piping up there, so we installed the heat exchanger/heat pump downstairs and reused the line set for the old AC system to take geo cooled refridgerant upstairs to a more traditional space pack, which has gas back-up heat.
We chose Gallagher/Hauser HVAC to do our installation, as the local company with the most experience. Their work has been technically quite good, but their customer service (for us) has been abysmal from start-to-finish, with scope creepy, cost overruns, and schedule delays at every turn so I would not recommend to anyone. For the kind of money we spent with them it's shocking how little regard they gave even the simplest requests.
The geothermal installation was really interesting to watch. First Jackson drilling showed up and installed 8 wells, each 300' deep. Each well provides 2 tons of heating/cooling capacity, through it's 600' of 1" PVC tubing, and there were two well fields installed in a line below our driveway to provide 8 tons each. The wells are 20' apart to allow them enough ground to extract heat from. The tubing was premade with a 'U' shaped connection at the tip. I think the holes are 3" in diameter, and the tubing is encased in Benseal (a bentonite mixture for casing the well) for heat dispersal. They liked drilling at our house because the asphalt made the process really clean for them, they could easily rack the tailing from the drill away and they had a nice solid base for thier rig, and since we have mostly shale and sandstone they were going through a 20' section of drilling pipe about every 2 minutes, or a well about every half hour. They made quite a mess, but the drilling was done in a couple of days. Or, rather, it would've been if they didn't break the bit on the next to last hole - and they didn't have a spare on this rig.
These were connected via a trench about 3' deep (pretty close to the frost line here in Cincinnati) manifold system so the could equalize the flow to each well in parallel and bring the cooling fluid (a mixture of glycol) into the house. The soutern field's last well was drilled without a boot's width of an unknown (and thus not marked by the utiltiy protection folks) of our neighbors gas line - which the ripped out while trenching. One field runs to the south end of the house into the front utility space and provides 3 tons of cooling for the front of the house through a Trilogy 45 unit service the the front of the basement and first floor, and a 4 ton split unit that feeds cooled fluid to a standand line set to the otherwise conventional HVAC unit for the second floor. The front Trilogy has cooling dampers and thermostats for the following zones.
- Basement Office
- First Floor Dining Room
The northern well field comes into the house in the full bath and routes up the wall and into the ceiling to reach the rear utility space where there is a 4 ton Trilogy 45 system for the back of the house - basement and first floor. In the ceiling is a T for the 3 ton HVAC unit for the addition. 1 Ton of excess capacity was planned. The rear Trilogy has cooling dampers and thermostats for the following zones.
- Basement Master Bedroom
- Basement Family Room
- First Floor Master Bedroom
- First Floor Family Room
Each of the 2 Trilogy units gets added efficiency by using some of the excess heat from the heat pump and well system to heat hot water for the house as well. This makes it the most efficient unit you can get in the United States. We will use this hot water as preheat to a system of tankless (Navien) hot water heaters that can provide endless full-flow hot water, and the electric backup heat in the Trilogy tanks will be deactivated.
Heat Pump Installation
Solar Power Arrays
We've installed (with ICON Solar) to get about 31.61kW (max continuous) of solar arrays on the south side (back) of the existing garage (the bulk) and west (back) side of the house to generate electric. Ohio is not a peak power state, so there isn't much need for batteries most of the time, and they're pretty expensive. We do get a decent tax incentive for installing them. The system came online on 28 April, 2021.
The arrays will start going in right after the roof is replaced. The system will consist of 125 (was 109) Canadian Solar MaxPower (CS6X-325P) 325W panels.
UPDATE: The roof is on, and ICON came in and installed the solar panels over 3 days. I have to say they look pretty good. Here are some pictures, and a quick YouTube of the shingles and solar array (the house is still a mess, but it was a nice sunny day, so I figured why not?). As part of the installation of the new geothermal heat pumps, generator and solar array we determined (with Bryan Bowden, electrical engineer) that we needed to upgrade our service from Duke. After a couple of fits and starts it was determined that the "code" load would be just under 800A capacity, but since we'd started with a lower number orginally we opted to install 1,000A just to be sure. As part of that Duke put in a new transformer for us, on a new pole, but they wanted a new vault at the base as well, which was a lot of work. [Keller] did a great job on the install.
Backup Power Generator
We've installed (as of April 23, 2021) a Generac QT150 generator from Riverside Electric for whole-house electric backup. It's a natural gas powered 10 cylinder generator. This unit feeds 450 amps (120VAC) to the house at full load and will burn 2,061 cuft of gas an hour (2 million BTU/HR @ 100%) when running, and is a 150 kW/hr rated generator, Generac Commercial Series Model QT150 (Liquid Cooled). It runs a self-test every Wednesday at noon (same time as the warning sirens to minimize noise complaints).
It is installed in the backyard at grade next to, but below the pool equipment and tie into it's existing gas line. We also were required to upgrade our gas service so that the pool heater and generator could run at the same time (full-load). The high pressure system needed a foundation, so we had to pour that, and lower the pool heater so the line running to the generator could run above grade.
We moved my nephew in to go to college, and so we setup the bonus room over the garage with his own workspace, TV and gaming area, and fridge and microwave.
There as a dog room in the house when we bought. I don't have a dog. But, we could use a second powder room for guests on the first floor, and a place to put a cat box. So, we put in a piece of frosted glass in the "doggie window" (so they could see the front door), installed a fan, toilet, and upgraded the sink. They'd also installed a Dutch Door so they could keep the dogs in, and the motion sensor in this hall was set to be inactive when Away so the dog's wouldn't trip it (nor their caretakers coming in the side door).
We needed a few trees removed. First, there was a rotting tree leaning dangerously in the backyard, a dead ash in the front yard, and 2 pine trees behind the existing garage that were going to block the solar array.
Before the big "COVID-19" panic of 2020, we'd visited some airplane friends in Pennsylvania. They had one of these Breeo smokeless firepits, and Elizabeth liked it so well we got one.
Pool Heater Replacement
Our old pool heater gave out, so we got a new one. This one has an optional phone "smart interface".