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Old 11-26-12, 09:20 PM   #1
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Default Living Underground

Anyone ever thought about building a house 100% underground? I think it'd be an interesting proposition if you could get over the fact that you were actually living underground. The earth stays at a constant temperature, which would mean lower heating bills in the winter, and nearly non-existent cooling bills in the summer. Also, The whole top could be covered with earth and grass, adding to its green appeal. Humidity and ventilation could be a problem but a simple powered HRV type system, maybe using a hacked dehumidifier which would aid in humidity removal.


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Old 11-27-12, 11:24 PM   #2
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Your whole house ends up being a basement with all of the basement problems, like you said humidity is a big one and sure you can pull humidity out of the air but you still have it in your walls, floor and now ceiling!
Insulating with 2" or more of ridged foam will help this a great deal, but also a layer of 6Mil plastic over the foam is a good idea to help keep the foam dry.

The other problem is that you end up with no windows and any sky light you put in has the problem of being a sky light that is on the ground, where it will rot the quickest and is always at risk of being covered up by snow and blowing leaves.

I did work on one house that was a walk out basement with the upper level being nearly on level with the ground at that back side, the whole thing pointed south too, it still had R25 insulation in the earth berimed wall (R40 for the rest of the walls) and it seemed to work ok, if you don't insulate your underground walls then they act as a heat sink, a slow heat sink but still a heat sink, sitting next to a 50F degree wall will feel cold in the winter and you have the whole mass of the soil behind it pulling heat away from that wall, forever.
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Old 12-07-12, 12:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Ryland View Post
...if you don't insulate your underground walls then they act as a heat sink, a slow heat sink but still a heat sink, sitting next to a 50F degree wall will feel cold in the winter and you have the whole mass of the soil behind it pulling heat away from that wall, forever.
Forever is not as long as you might think...

The biggest issue is water migration through soil. If you live in the right area, and choose your your building site correctly and take care to prevent occasional ground water migration, then the earth can act as a storage unit.

With this plan, it takes about 3 years for the surrounding ground to come up to temperature...

Heat flow through dry earth is about 16 feet per 6 months. If you house has a water migration free zone around it of 20 feet or better, it will draw heat from the house during the warmest months and return the heat to the house during the coldest months.

The concept is called Passive Annual heat Storage (PAHS)

I'm not an HVAC technician. In fact, I'm barely even a hacker...
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Old 11-29-12, 10:40 PM   #4
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Too late, doomsday is only 3 weeks away. Ha ha
Gary R

“If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom. ” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower
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Old 12-01-12, 06:14 PM   #5
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People do it, the survivalist as well as those seeking its comfort.
Dig out the land and build your structure with concrete then insulate with 10" of rigid foam.
Then cover it with a foundation water proof membrane and back fill it.
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Old 12-05-12, 09:08 PM   #6
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Soil temperature in your area is about 45 deg F year around. If you want the house to be warmer than that, it needs insulation on top, around the walls, and underneath the floor. Minimum six inches foam, ten inches if you want energy efficiency.

Put the foam outside the concrete so the concrete is a thermal mass. Then all the concrete will be warm, including any exposed concrete around exterior doors.

Building codes require all bedrooms to have a second way to escape in case of fire. You cannot escape that requirement because, although concrete does not burn, the contents of the house do burn.
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Old 12-06-12, 11:16 PM   #7
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Default Underground house

I have lived in an earth sheltered house for 30 years. Humidity has not been a problem I run a small dehumidifier in the spring until it gets warm enough to run ac unit. 1800 square feet using 2 1/2 ton unit should have went with 2 ton. The ac/ heat pump is a geothermal unit. Usually run ac unit about 4 weeks after above ground start theirs and heat about 6 weeks after above ground houses use theirs. House is extremely quiet very little outside noise. Live in okla so hail and tornadoes are a concern but not for me. Wouldn't consider living in any thing else.Using solar panels for hot water. Have our own well and septic system electric bills in winter run under $70.00 . Heat with wood stove which helps on electric bills. E bills in summer run 160.00 or less would be lower but have a big garden and lots of lawn.
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Old 12-08-12, 09:50 AM   #8
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I've often daydreamed about an underground home, but the issues around building code compliance regarding emergency egress from sleeping areas have always stumped me. I realize it could be done with a very creative design, and a building inspector that can think outside the box, but it could be a long tedious process.
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Old 12-23-12, 09:48 AM   #9
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Yes, I agree the building code compliance alone can be a great problem, of course aside from the ones already mentioned above such as humidity, and for me lack of natural light.
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