Difference between revisions of "Current house"

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Revision as of 20:39, 9 October 2019

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.


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.

Basement Remodel

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 base spacious basement is only about 3' under grade, 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 couple of nice features that I worked into the basement remodel are around sound. Our last house had built-in speakers, and I really like 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 them, so I bought a bunch (7) more for the basement and through 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 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 together control the volume, sometimes when you 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!

Geothermal Installation

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.

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

Well Fields

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

Data Center

See Camp Kiwi Data Center.

Pre-Purchase Pictures

Older Zillow Pictures