geothermal cooling

Since we moved…

We have been settling in and getting acquainted with the intimacies of the house.  The day we moved in my sister Diana helped me organize the kitchen. When she left she told me it was a start and that I would probably rearrange it several times before we landed on a system that works.  It’s ironic how well we when know each other and how similar we are in lifestyle.  I haven’t moved a thing since that first day and the flow is perfect.  The kitchen, which so many months ago I feared would be too small, is actually roomy with plenty of cabinet space.  The entire house “lives big” because of it’s open floor plan and tall ceilings. We absolutely love it!

Just after we moved in the sewer line broke.  A backup of the system into our downstairs shower  was the clue.  All the plumbing on the inside had been replaced so we knew the problem was outside and started digging.  Well, we didn’t start digging, Mr. Rooter started digging and he found a big pocket underground where our waste had piled up for about two weeks until it backed up into the house.  The main line was cast iron where it entered the house.  That section was strong and clear.

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The problem was a few feet down the line where the iron pipe attached to the original terra cotta pipe.  That’s right, a 104 year old clay pipe that had been cracked several times and repaired with cement.  Apparently the well digging, gas line dredging and significant landscaping had jostled the pipe enough underground that it had crumbled in several places.

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In hind sight, maybe we should have dug up the line while we were in the demolition phase but in keeping with the spirit of conservation, it seemed superfluous at the time. In any case, when the final landscaping is done in the backyard, the last section of pipe will be dug up and replaced and the entire sewer line will be new!   An added benefit is that we got to know our fantastic neighbors.  Some barely knew us when they welcomed us into their homes for showering!

John is now working on the back porch, hoping to get it done before the Richmond heat and humidity become oppressive.  Our project has become a real family affair as Bobby’s son, Stephen, is assisting John with the porch and Bobby’s brother, Michael, will soon dismantle the old cinderblock garage that sits at the back of the lot.   It will be replaced with a carport of sorts, or open garage that  will have a door to the street but will be open to the inside yard.

A few days ago…

footings

Today, with Stephen’s help…

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porch

The front porch railings continue to plague us with issues.  It rained the entire weekend we moved.  We noticed that the railing paint bubbled and a brown liquid oozed out and dripped down the sides.  It also oozed out of nail holes in the balustrades.

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After much investigation it seems that the liquid used in the dipping/stripping bath had not completely dried deep inside the wood.  The moisture meter gave a satisfactory reading on the surface so the restoration company felt safe in painting the surfaces.  They have returned, scraped the paint form the railings and the nail holes and are waiting for everything to dry completely so it can be repainted.

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The column and railings restoration has been a difficult process.  We were committed to retaining this feature.  We have no regrets that we undertook restoration as opposed to replacement but it has been a journey.  I have personally driven the restoration company crazy, especially the lead carpenter assigned to our job.  I have pestered her for perfection and insisted upon attention to every detail.  It’s impossible to make 104 year old railings look new.  Our expectations were unrealistic in the beginning and the carpenters are accustomed to a more worn look than we were willing to accept.   We have all learned to compromise and to communicate.   A few more hot days and the process should be complete.  The wood is strong and as the head guy said to me just yesterday: “It’s time to let the beauty of age shine through.”

Lastly, we are thrilled with our geothermal system.  In particular, I love the hot water feature. We installed a Rinnai tankless, on-demand hot water heater in conjunction with the geothermal system.

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The idea behind a tankless system is that it heats the water as you need it instead of continually heating water stored in a tank.  Tankless heaters last about five to 10 years longer than a tank heater, take up much less space and provide an unlimited amount of hot water. They cost a bit more and can require new power lines and venting so it’s easiest to install during the building process.  The geothermal company has set up our system so that the hot air extracted from the air conditioner is used to heat water that is fed into a holding tank.  That warmed water then runs through the Rinnai.  The preheated water is so warm some days we don’t even use the Rinnai, just the hot water generated as a by product of cooling our home.  That means less heat being dumped into our environment, less energy used to heat water and we never run out of hot water.  There is also less guilt for me when I lower the temperature on the air conditioner!

Here we are enjoying one of our favorite Carytown establishments: Nacho Mamas!

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The well has been dug!

Geothermal heating and cooling systems commonly consist of tubes running horizontally around the property several feet below the surface.  Because we don’t have the horizontal square footage, Delta Temp chose a vertical looping system contained inside a well for our needs. Monday the neighbors had an early morning alarm in the form of a huge well driller.  The rig and backhoe were set in place over the weekend so the drilling could start at 7AM sharp.  Curtis Drilling also dug an 8-foot pit near the well site into which they would deposit the dirt, mud, rock shavings and water that came out of the ground during the process. DSC_0007

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The big drill bit!

IMG_5359Long extension poles stacked on the side of the truck.Image

Extension poles are hoisted into a loader that spins to drop poles into place.  A huge wrench screws the poles together tightly.DSC_0010

DSC_0015 I arrived early to get photos and videos from a second floor window.  The drill ran nonstop from 7AM to 4PM in order to reach a depth of 400 feet.   Early on in the drilling, while standing in the window I got pelted in the face with a mud clump!  Mud went splattering everywhere!  Here is a video that shows some of the drilling and splattering. Initially the debris coming up out of the ground was red Virginia clay. It changed over to orange mud, followed by gray granite shavings. The mud was largely caused by the water pumped into the hole as the drilling took place. The big hole is filled with mud and rock shavings.  It will take days for the water to evaporate and be absorbed into the yard.DSC_0023

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DSC_0052 Here’s another short video clip of the rig in operation. On Tuesday, the tubing used for air circulation was inserted down the deep well and concrete was pumped into the shaft.  All that is visible is this little stump.

Image 1The city will send an inspector to have a look and then a trench will be made from the well to the underside of the house to connect the well to the system.  For a better understanding of the geothermal system, please refer to Patrick’s earlier post.