The land (which we have named Adendale) is a few miles from a nice little town. We’ll have easy access to the essentials, like Mexican food and gas stations. But, Adendale is a little too far for the utilities to reach. That means we’re going “off the grid”.
Because the roof of the Hobbit Hole is round we can’t mount solar panels up there. That wouldn’t look very hobbity anyway. So we’re going to have another little building with a flat roof and a place for some batteries and even a generator for the times the solar panels can’t provide all the power we need. The battery we’re using is actual the one I got for my electric VW bug conversion. It wasn’t the right battery for an electric car, but it’s perfect for solar backup. The kids really want a hot tub. I don’t know exactly how that is going to happen yet. A hot tub can’t be run off the batteries, so we sized the generator so that someday, if possible, we’ll be able to use it to run the hot tub.
That covers the electricity but what about the other utilities? Well. Yes, we have a well. Fortunately the well was already dug before we bought the land. I don’t know anything about wells (yet) but this one is able to put out 25 gallons per minute. That should be enough, but just to be extra sure we have water when we need it we’re going to get a 1750 gallon holding tank. The well is on top of the plateau so water from the tank will always have some pressure behind it since it is above everything else. We still need a pump to get the water from the well to the tank. Having a holding tank will also let us limit the schedule for the well pump so it only turns on when the tank is low, and during the day when the sun is making our electricity. We haven’t had the water tested yet, but we will, and I assume it will be hard water so we’ll eventually want to add a water softener. Every hobbit worth his buttons knows the importance of soft water.
So the water comes into the Hobbit Hole from the well, to get the water back out we’ll have a septic system. Having been raised as a Suburban Hobbit, this is my first experience with a septic system. One thing I did not know was that most of the liquid just flows out into a “leach” or drainage field. Ya, I agree, ew. As you can imagine you want the drain field far away from the house and buried plenty deep in the ground. We have lots of space so that won’t be a problem. But, when you come to visit, if you notice a patch of grass that seems extra fertile… take the long way around it.
Hobbits place comfort above everything else. After all a Hobbit Hole is “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat.” I’m pretty excited about this part; to control the temperature in our Hobbit Hole we’re using water pipes in the floor that will provide both heating and cooling. If you’ve not experienced it before, radiant floor heating is delightful. Coming in the house on a cold day and feeling the warm floor under your bare feet is heavenly. I like to set my clothes on the floor at night so in the morning they are nice and warm when I put them on. It turns out, radiant cooling is also possible. Not many people use it because you have to be careful not to cause condensation below the carpet. We aren’t using carpet so we don’t have to worry about that, but also the climate where we are building is quite dry so condensation will be easy to avoid.
To make our heating and cooling system as efficient as possible we are also putting in a geothermal system. A few feet below the surface, the temperature of the earth is constant. So if it’s cold on the surface it is warmer a few feet down. And if it’s hot on the surface it’s a lot cooler a few feet down. A geothermal system uses that constant temperature to assist the heating and cooling process in the house. Our system will require a huge trench, 30’x 100’x 8’deep. We’ll bury hundreds of feet of pipe in that trench. Those pipes will be filled with a water/antifreeze mix that will connect to a heat exchanger in the house. When the house is hot and we want it cooled down, or the other way around, the heat exchanger will do that using 1/4 the power it would use if we didn’t have the geothermal pipe field. So we’ll have cozy warm floors in the winter and refreshingly cool floors in the summer and we’ll be using a lot less energy.