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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Back in the 70s and 80s, and especially after the OPEC oil embargo when people were thinking they might freeze to death when the oil ran out in any given winter, there was a whole thing with "earth sheltered housing," where people were experimenting with building houses below ground, sort of along the lines of the zombie-proof house in HH's thread re the million dollar prepper house, but more below ground and with offset skylight setups. Supposedly , even in Canada you coud heat the whole place just through the normal use of appliances and lightbulbs etc. There were books written about it, but I don't know anyone who did it. Has anyone encountered or considered such a place? I always thought they would have EOTWAWKI defensive virtues as well as the design purpose of being heat efficient.
 

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My daughter lives in Taos New Mexico. Her residence is on the Mesa right in the area where folks have built what they call Earth Ships. Sounds exactly like what you are talking about. Many of the homes are put together by piling old tires and then burying the outside with soil. Inside the us hardware cloth and plaster. Those that I have visited over the years are quite nice. Not my cup of tea. Fine if you need to live like a mole to survive.
 

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One of the potentially big problems with these type of buildings is the build up of Radon Gas. This is tied to where you built but you better know what you've got before you start building. you can overcome this but it's best to be addressed before you start the actual foundation.
While there is a lot to recommend this type of construction. I think the proof is in the evidence that most seem to outgrow the idea after trying it.
 

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They have tons of those around here. They buildt them in the 70s and 80s but they seem to have lost there popularity.
The problem with all most of them is there is no way to get out in case of fire.Nobody put in a back door I guess because of the cost. I all so know there resale value is low because only certain people will live in them.
The two I have been in were still fairly cold in the winter and we really don't have real hard winters here in Oklahoma.
I would not want to live in one even though they look like a normal house from the inside. They all so seem to be dark inside but I don't know if that is because of the lighting chosen when they were buildt or if they are just that way.
Greg
 

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I've been researching underground homes for many years and hope to build one in about 10 years.

The main benefits are a stable temperture underground, approx 55 degrees here in VA. We have stable soil for the construction. In an conventional home when the temp outside is 0, the inside will become close to 0. You have to expend energy to get the inside temp to 70 and keep it there.

In an underground home the ground temp is 55, you just have to raise the temp 15 degrees to obtain the 70 degree mark. Plus the earth insulation makes it easy to retain the heat.

The main problems are interior sweating, where condensation forms on the walls and mold will commence. With good construction, exterior waterproofing, good inside insulation and proper ventilation, an underground home is efficient and less prone to natural disasters. HVAC costs are way reduced.

It may cost more to build, but the reduced maintenance costs will provide an eventual payback.

Just think of it as a basement with no upstairs (Mancave).
 

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I had a "contact" home in New Mexico. It was Southern exposure with passive Solar and active water heat. When I built it I ran coils under the floor in the lower level and used a sand bed and street bricks. The upper level had slanted windows with shutters that you could open and close to vent or capture solar heat. I put Kivas in the 5 bedrooms and a huge hearth fireplace in the family room. We used to set up a 25' Xmas tree. Most of my electric was generated by 4 windmills with storage batteries in the detached shop/garage. I did probably 70% of the work myself and when I left N.M. the guy that bought it paid a princely sum so he and his young family could live in relative seclusion. My first wife was a California Hippy type chick and me, I was/am just cheap. Shoulda' sold her and kept the house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Air-heat exchangers were seen as necessary, most of the house plans I remember involved improvising them. Then they appeared comercially for a while, but they're another thing I haven't heard of for years. Definately something that would require electricity or perhaps a 19th century source of power to operate.
 

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The basic concept has been around in one form or another for a very long time.

It's all about what they like to call "Thermal Mass", but it can be above ground as well. Adobe houses are a good example.


Another idea that has seen some traction in the last decade or so has been the use of those polystyrene cement forms. You stack 'em like cinderblock, cutting with a heat knife when necessary and you put in reinforcing ties on each level to hold the sides together.

Then you fill the insides with poured concrete.


You can also do that with traditional forms for a full width concrete wall.


Anyhow, you get a whole lot of thermal mass either way, so whatever temp your house happens to BE at, it wants to STAY at. It's also real popular to combine them with radiant floor heat.
 

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Easy way to take care of the condensation when constructing is a small drain field & hook up a dehumidifier to it. Or just attach it to your gray water drainage.
Fla and Va are very different.
 

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Well let me add the following. NO MATTER what kind of house you have, IF you are worried about freezing, or just being miserable and cold, install a good quality Wood stove.

In my house I have a Vermont Castings wood stove, and I can say it is very effecient, and I can heat my house for all winter, for what one month of the electric bill is, if I only used electric heat.

It has not been real cold here this winter, so far and I have not even bought any wood, we have just been using wood we have picked up on our place that has been "blown" out of the tops of the trees, with a couple of trees that did get blowed down in the winds of last spring.

Also even if you have a "normal" house, if it is insulated properly, say to twice the normal standard, in your area, like mine is, it will make a BIG difference.
 

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The basic concept has been around in one form or another for a very long time.

It's all about what they like to call "Thermal Mass", but it can be above ground as well. Adobe houses are a good example.


Another idea that has seen some traction in the last decade or so has been the use of those polystyrene cement forms. You stack 'em like cinderblock, cutting with a heat knife when necessary and you put in reinforcing ties on each level to hold the sides together.

Then you fill the insides with poured concrete.


You can also do that with traditional forms for a full width concrete wall.


Anyhow, you get a whole lot of thermal mass either way, so whatever temp your house happens to BE at, it wants to STAY at. It's also real popular to combine them with radiant floor heat.
^He gets it. Log cabins have a good deal of mass as well. ICF's are way better!
Geothermal heat pumps also pair extremely well with hydronic in-floor heat. You southern guys will likely not get the approach, but it's about 5 below zero right now with a strong wind which will make it feel much worse.
 
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