Why an earth-sheltered home?
Before I discovered this underground house I had spent time looking for the ‘right’ house. You know, the one that speaks to you. When I spotted this house, with it’s native rock front set in a peaceful clearing surrounded by woods…. I knew that all those years spent reading Mother Earth News magazines were going to be beneficial. This house had everything I’d dreamed of, space, solitude, thermal qualities, tornado safe…. the works.
I think my favorite quality of the house is in it’s thermal mass. Because we’re covered on dirt on the top, and three sides, we have a great amount of thermal mass. When summertime temperatures rage the inside of the house stays relatively cool and as summertime passes, what heat that has been stored slowly slowly dissipates so that we rarely turn any heat on prior to Thanksgiving. (And then it’s for guests.)
Even when the temperatures outside drop to freezing (and below) the house still maintains heat. Now, it doesn’t stay 78 by any means, the temps inside slowly go down to about 68. This means that if you aren’t comfortable at 68 then all you have to heat is a couple of degrees, and not 10-20-30 degrees like you would in a normal house.
One winter, I placed an electronic thermometer near the garage door just to see exactly how cool it gets in the garage (as there is no heat in the garage.) I store some food-stuffs in the garage and while I was pretty sure that there were no wild temperature fluctuations I wanted to make sure.
I was right. Even in the unheated garage, with the garage door being opened/shut, the temperature near the door never went below 55 degrees. Perfect storage temperatures.
Come springtime, it’s the exact opposite. The house holds onto it’s cooler temps so that when it does get hot outside and the temp starts creeping upward there’s less temperature difference that the heat pump has to make up. It’s a lot easier to cool from 78 to 72 than it would be a normal house (where temps can creep up to the 90’s in the heat of summer.) In fact, we rarely turn the cool air on until June.
This thermal mass and temperature moderating effects of this unconventional house certainly helps with heating and cooling costs.