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Monday, October 16, 2006

Why are we going underground?

It's been a very long weekend. My Father-in-law and his stepfather had heart attacks this weekend. Father-in-law on Friday, his stepfather on Saturday. My two-year-old is sick, and when he is, he tends to wake up frequently in a panic. Top that with a migraine and you have my weekend.

I was asked about why we are going to build an underground home. I know I have talked about it before, but in short posts. and I am lazy about searching through everything to find it.

One of the first reasons that we decided on going underground is because of childhood fantasies. I, and my obsession with the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and the house in the hill. My husband spent time between Denver Colorado {living in a car} and Rock, Kansas {a little no where town}. Rock, Kansas is home to a few underground missile silos. A couple bought one and turned it into a home. That started his fascination with the underground home.

Another reason isn't so whimsical. Underground homes tend to stay in the temperature range of 70F {21c} to 75F {23c}, almost eliminating the need for artificial heating or cooling. That worked wonders on selling us to the idea. We do have two wood burning stoves to help lift any winter chill, and have discussed building a home hearth not just for warmth, but because I adore cooking in them. The only out of pocket expense will be for the wood as we have few trees on our land. {The ones we do have are for wind breaks and an orchard, and are still to young for even those duties} But even the price of wood is considerably cheaper than propane {we don't get natural gas out here} or electricity. We do plan on using propane still as a way to heat up our hot water tank and gas range. {Propane is cheaper than electricity, here} Another "heater" we have looked into is a pellet stove, or corn furnace. These things are great. A friend of ours bought one last year. She bought her corn at the local co-op and spent a little over $3.00 US to heat her house last year.

Reason number three, the weather. Even though the valley I live in has not been torn up by a tornado in ten years, there is still that great threat. We do get hail and straight line winds, as well as microbursts. These things do great damage to homes. Going underground will eliminate this type of home damage, as well as keep us safe if a tornado decides to show up in the middle of the night.

Yet another reason would be that we will be the most popular people in the area with the children. They will come for miles just to slide down the only hill in these parts, during the snow.

Living underground will give us more space to work with. The sheep can graze our roof top, and the steps of the sunken patio will allow me to garden closer to the house. The risk of a fire destroying our house will be less, and in turn will reduce our insurance costs. The only down side is that our property tax will go up.

And we are actually mole people.

I do hope that answers your questions about why. If not, or you want me to expand on an explanation, please ask.


Antof9 said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this -- I knew some of it, but not all. This fascinates me.

I can't remember if I told you or not, but the first time I ever told Unk about your underground house, his immediate response was about the efficiency of the cold/heat factor. hmmmm. . .

And best of everything to the men in your family, my friend.

Stephanie said...

Those are some of the same reasons we are planning to go underground. Well except the hill reason. We live in the hills so . . . .

Cheryl said...

That sounds so cool! Do you know of any good books on the subject that I could watch for? It sounds like the perfect solution for you guys for many reasons.
We really want to get a pellet stove too, but the one I fell in love with is ridiculously expensive (the Harman Accentra insert). I guess I better keep looking!

Cheryl said...

Forgot to say that I hope everyone's feeling better soon!

annulla said...

Oh, I wish I still had this book so I could send it to you. It is about a different type of "underground" place but your post reminded me and it is a wonderful story.

The Underground Man by Mick Jackson

Phelan said...

Ant, I remember you saying something about that. And thank you.

Stephanie, when do you plan on going underground. Love to swap ideas {even if you have a hill}

Cheryl, The $50 and up Underground House book, is the only one I can recomend as of now. If you click on my "living underground" tag, you should be able to get a post with a link. and thank you.

Annulla, looks like a great book. Will have to add that one to my wish list.

UKBob said...

Hi Phelan, Am I sorry to hear about all the problems you've been having over the weekend, It almost made me feel bad for having such a good time of it. I really hope things pick up for you soon. Thanks for telling me about your underground home, it sounds like a smart move to me.

ContentiousJoy said...

First off, forgive the seemingly negative approach to this, but.. I'd be so terrified! Not that I know anyone that actually lives underground (except for the mole people, obviously) but the sheer thought of not being able to run to either side and exit mortifies me. I know this is probably extremely prejudiced by me, but I imagine these damp, dark, creepy places and worms and urrrhhh.

That said.. I am intrigued. There's also a feeling of safeness in the ground, I guess.

Best of luck to you.

(Stumbled randomly)

Stephanie said...

We were hoping to start next spring, but it may be the year after. We have gotten lots of books from the library (INCLUDING THE $50 BOOK) and talked about lots of ideas, but have yet to sit down to make a firm plan or plan of action.

Speaking of that book are you going with a dirt floor as he recommends or poured concrete? I would love to swap ideas. Feel free to email me.

This is where I posted about why we are going underground.

Anonymous said...

Good points...I like the part about the sheep getting to graze on top of the house. I love sheep, we have five of them...


Phelan said...

UKbob, no worries. Everyone is good now. Glad to hear you had a good time.

Contentiousjoy, glad to have your input. I made an attempt to clarfy in my newest post.

Stephanie, great! I will e-mail you.

Ellie, maybe you could give me some sheep tips.

Liz said...

Is it more like a "berm house" where the earth gets piled up along the northern exposures of the house? We have friends who just built a place like that... it's very nice.

I'm wondering about the corn stove. I know they're cheap to operate because the price of corn is artificially low due to govt subsidies. I have a hard time getting behind cornstoves or gassing up a car with corn-based ethanol because it doesn't seem right to burn food for fuel. Thoughts?

Phelan said...

Liz, we did look into berm housing. instead we decided on digging a whole, sticking a house in the center of it and covering the roof, front and back with soil.

The corn thing. Yes, that thought did cross my mind. But then the corn that the co-op sells is covered in pesticides and more than likely genetically engineered somehow. Unless they could show me that the corn was organically grown, it doesn't bother me to burn it instead of feeding it to my children. Corn is a renewable resource. I don't see us running out of it too soon, as say natural gas.

Liz said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Phelan. I have to admit that I've never seen this kind of house you're going to build (and am not likely to run out to get the book you referenced. *grin*). I look forward to seeing your posts/pictures as you start building!

Re: the corn. If corn wasn't such a big feeder I'd agree that it's renewable. But when you think about how much natural gas is used to make the fertilizer to grow the corn, I have to wonder. It doesn't sound like that's the direction you're going to go, but I hope for the folks who use corn stoves that they are easy to convert to another kind of fuel. Thanks again... it's nice to have this kind of dialogue. And by the way, your apple struedel looks delightful! :)

Phelan said...

Liz, corn can be grown without fertilizer ~grin~ Just being ornery. I don't think we will be going with a corn burner. We have two wood burners, but they should be rarely used if we do this right.

no worries. I should be able to scan the page I am talking about off tonight. It's not our finalized plans, just similar to what we are wanting.

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