Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A new place to call home

We have been busy these last few weeks! The biggest event was moving out of our apartment. Before you get too excited, we did not move in to our new dream home... not yet anyway! We are now bunking with Kyle's parents and his two younger siblings.

Now before you cringe and pity us, we are happy here for many reasons. First of all Kyle's family home is only about a half a mile away from our property so we can easily walk down to check on progress and take photos of fun things happening with the house.

Secondly, ummm its rent free! We are saving more than ever without having to pay for monthly rent expenses and utilities. We try to buy our own groceries as much as possible but lets face it, we steal their milk and they have the best snack foods! My mother in law loves to bake cakes and pies and other delectable goodies, so we are eating very well here.

Plus we have plenty of space here. No really, we do. We are in the finished basement of the house and have 2 bedrooms and a small 3 piece bathroom. We are using one bedroom for our bed and my clothes and the other bedroom is our living room, with our TV, a small mini fridge and a little make shift pantry for some of our food.

Another bonus to living here is that we are spending time with Kyle's younger brother Kevin who is home from college for the summer as well as his youngest sister Jamie (she is 11 years old). There are many upsides to living here while the house is completed and we are very fortunate they have allowed us to stay here. It sure beats how we were living at the apartment those last few weeks!

We had sold most of our furniture (including, our couch and love seat, the dining room table and chairs, our desk, computer chair, and a few other odds and ends). Thank you Craigslist for helping us get rid of our stuff!

Check out the photo below of our make shift living room furniture, courtesy of my parents. They were comfortable as far as lawn chairs go but I prefer a sofa for my movie watching.

Progress is still being made on the house. We are meeting with our builder next weekend as well as meeting with the tile company to select the tile for the master shower, finalize of flooring and finally we will meet with the window and door company to make sure we have all the windows in the correct sizes.

We are about 6-8 weeks away from starting construction!!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Heating and Cooling with Geothermal

So I figure, it’s about time I start contributing to Chelsea’s house blog. As everyone knows from reading one of Chelsea’s first posts, we will be using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for the exterior of the house. If you haven’t read it you should definitely check out "How Our Green Home Works".

Once we decided on our exterior shell of our house we then had to decide on how we would heat and cool our house. Natural gas is not available in our area so that option was immediately out. We thought maybe propane may be a good idea due to the air tightness of our house along with an air conditioner for the summer.

On a side note: we have been living in apartments since 2006 and have always been leery of the ever increasing gas prices. Midwest propane prices are $2.15/gallon in 2011. This is up from $1/gallon back in 2001. In the summer time we would use the air conditioner just enough to keep our apartments below 85 degrees in the summer and use the furnace in the winter just enough to keep it around 62-63 degrees.
We also considered an air source heat pump which is essentially an air conditioner but can operate in reverse to provide heat to the house during the cold months. Unfortunately, if it gets too cold outside the air source pump cannot adequately heat the house and would require a supplemental heat source such as propane or electric. The consideration of the air source heat pump led us to the ground source heat pump or geothermal system.

We learned that not only could geothermal heat and cool our house for less than any other option but it would also supplement the hot water heater for us. Trying to take a green yet economical approach to our new house we figured we should probably look into this and find out the pay back, the efficiency, the longevity, and how the heck this more expensive type of system works.

Through reading various literature and talking to multiple geothermal companies we learned that the geothermal systems can provide us with approximately 70% savings over a propane furnace and air conditioner. The higher gas prices go, the shorter our payback becomes. We also learned that the geothermal furnace produces 5 units of heating and cooling into the home for everyone 1 unit of electricity used. This equates to around 500% efficiency while high efficiency gas or propane furnaces typically run around 94%.

So how does a geothermal system work? Surprisingly, it is quite simple. The Earth’s surface down to 10 feet or so maintains a temperature of 45-75 degrees depending on your latitude. In the Midwest it is closer to 50-60 degrees year round.

During the heating cycle, the heat pump uses the earth loop to extract heat from the ground. As the system pulls heat from the loop it distributes it through the duct system as warm air. In the cooling mode, the heating process is reversed - creating cool, conditioned air throughout the home. Instead of extracting heat from the ground, heat is extracted from the air in your home and either moved back into the earth loop. Both cycles provide heating for the water tank. See the picture below.

There are multiple variations of geothermal systems to use. We wanted one that utilized a forced air system rather than a radiant heat system. The next choice was the type of system. There are two main types, the open or the closed loop. The closed loops can be horizontal, vertical, or a pond/lake system. See the pictures below.

Originally, we had considered the open loop system where water is used and pulled from a well and then disbursed into another well or water source. Due to the high iron content of the water in our area, it would cause our system to be less efficient as the contents in the water would build up in the system. This is similar to clogging of arteries in the human body. So although this system had the lowest upfront cost, it would lead to a long term higher cost of maintenance and operations.

The system we will be having installed is the horizontal closed loop. This can be used when there is adequate land available. Instead of using water, polyethylene pipes are filled with a water antifreeze mix and laid in trenches. The trenches typically it require 1/4 – 3/4 of an acre. These systems generally have 50 year warranties on the loops.

The vertical loop is designed for people who live on small lots of land where space is limited. This is where the loops are bored down 200-300 feet. The vertical loops contain the same mixture as the horizontal loops.

The last loop is a pond/lake loop. The loops are sunk at the bottom of a lake or pond. This needs about a half acre and water depth of at least 8 feet.

So we are not experts on geothermal but we are learning. If you already have your land for building and are considering geothermal, it is pretty easy to have a heating and cooling company that does geo, come and view your property to see what kind will best suit your land, and your needs. It will be an exciting day when the system finally goes in!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Our Updated Craftsman Style

Kyle and I have been busy with contractors, sub contractors, general contractors, flooring stores, cabinetry companies and who did I leave out? Needless to say, we have been busy soon-to-be-homeowners! We are just hoping that all our hard work, time and energy make the project worthwhile. Today, I wanted to take a step back from talking about the construction and show off our design style.

Its no secret that Kyle and I love the simplicity of the craftsman style. For those of you that are not familiar with Craftsman (sometimes called Arts & Crafts), it was a movement in home design. During the late 19th century, the middle class in America were tired of fancy, over done Victorian style. The Craftsman look is about simplicity, using natural materials and a quality craftsmanship.

Some characteristics of a Craftsman home:

Low pitched roof lines or gabled roof
Hand crafted stone work
Tapered porch columns
Deep overhangs from the eaves
Large Front porch

If you were counting those listed above, we have all of those characteristics in our Craftsman charmer!

Now feast your eyes on these beauties and feel inspired!


We have always gravitated towards the crisp lines of Bungalows an Arts & Crafts style homes. When we started drawing our future home plans, we took inspiration from homes like the ones above. We tried to keep as many of the architectural details that are essential to the Craftsman as we possibly could.

Another feature of a Craftsman home are built-ins. We have three large built-ins in our new home. The first built-in you see when you enter the living room from the entry way. We have a fireplace centered on the west wall and flanked on either side with white book shelves.


The second built-in that you will see are the build-in book cases when you come up the stairs to the second level of the home. We have a half wall with lots of storage for books, games and display my favorite shopping vice, small pottery bowls.

The final large built-in that we have are our locker system. The lockers will be located at the back of the house in the mudroom. We have based our design for the lockers mostly on this photo. We love the upper doors that open to allow coats to be hung as well as the pull out drawers for shoes below.

Currently Kyle and I live in an apartment which doesn't allow for much expression of design style. I snapped a couple of pictures before we started boxing things up to move this week. We enjoy simple lines and with a hint of modern style but ultimately we always come back to our cozy craftsman look. Can't wait to have the house up and get in there are make it our own! 10 weeks till we break ground!