When we left off in March, demolition and renovations had begun on Kate and Rob’s 1930s Arts & Crafts style home. Now the new windows are installed, the geothermal heating system is in, and they’re in the home stretch…
They thought they were past the “danger zone” of surprises. But nobody could have predicted what awaited the company commissioned to drill down 100 feet to install Kate and Rob’s geothermal heating system.
“They have to dig the hole to feed down the copper tubing,” explains Kate. “It’s supposed to take one day, but because our yard had so much clay it took four days.”
Normally crews would reach rock about 10 to 30 feet down, which aids with feeding the tube down the full depth. But at Kate and Rob’s, more than 70 feet of clay awaited them. “Ninety-eight per cent of installations can be done in a day. This has been the most challenging installation we’ve ever done,” says Mike Parlato, owner of Earth Energy Solutions, the geothermal heating contractor. “There are no hurdles we can’t overcome, but this one pushed us to the limit. Now we know we can do anything.”
The system is called the DX direct expansion system, which is a closed copper loop filled with an environmentally safe, non-toxic refrigerant that turns into vapour when heated. The direct expansion principle allows the energy transference medium to come into contact with the earth through pure copper, ensuring maximum energy delivery. (For more information see www.earthenergysolutions.ca.)
It’s been a year since Kate and Rob first laid eyes on the house that has since dominated their thoughts and time. They fell in love with it immediately, despite its smoke stained yellowed walls, worn flooring and poor air quality. It needed almost everything: a new kitchen, new bathrooms, wiring, HVAC system, windows, landscaping and plumbing, to name a few.
Dual flush toilets and water efficient fixtures are in, as is drain heat recovery, and rainwater collection for landscaping. An “all off switch” turns off all non-essential power in the house. Solar panels will not be installed at this point, but the house is solar ready.
The kitchen will feature a quartz countertop, low-VOC paint, and LED pot lights. “Using a combination of spray foam, fibreglass batt, and cellulose, we are increasing the home’s R-value from 11 to about R-21/25 in some places. The starting value is based on the energy audit we had done before the renovation process started. The goal was R-50, but we can’t reach this because of how the house was originally constructed,” says Kate. They are also insulating the drainpipes, on the advice of someone else, and sealing the ductwork.
Salvaging and re-homing elements of the home has also been an important priority for Kate and Rob. One Citizen reader saw their story in a previous edition of In & Around the Home, and ultimately re-homed a number of rippled window panes from the windows that were being replaced.
Kate and Rob also purchased $300 worth of lighting from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. “I had cut out a picture of a fixture from a magazine that I wanted, and was shocked and pleased to find it at the ReStore!” says Kate.
The completion of the geothermal system is one of the project’s biggest milestones to date, and has Kate feeling very positive going forward into the last leg of the journey. “Nobody will ever know there’s a labyrinth of copper tubing under the ground,” she says. Landscaping won’t be a priority however: “We have zero landscaping plans. When this is over, we’ll need time to breathe, and just be here. It can be a future project.”
Kate and Rob are grateful to Amsted Construction and Chuck Mills Residential Design for making the process as smooth as it has been, and taking many details into consideration that otherwise might not have been noticed until too late.
To follow Kate and Rob’s blog visit http://renovationadventure.blogspot.com. And be sure to check out the September edition of In & Around the Home to see how it all turns out.
THE OTTAWA CITIZEN ADVERTISING FEATURE THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2009
BY PAMELA EADIE