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Underground Dwellings and a 14000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Don't have to be ultra modern or state-of-the-art in order to have a subterranean home. While initially expensive, these homes often times recover that investment after several years. Thanks to their energy-efficient nature, these homes in some cases can qualify for tax incentives and can truly be called a Green Building.

Types
Mountainside hut

Before you commit to building an underground dwelling you will have to consider what type is most appropriate for your needs. Depending on where your home will be located, factoring in cost and overall topography, you might have several options to pursue.

  • Dugout: A common structure, this style can be riskier in that they are often times more costly and can be more dangerous. Because they can be built deeper, more pressure rests on the roof and can make home repairs more difficult.
  • Pit-house: A tried and tested structure, this home is sunken with only the roof exposed above ground to maximize protection from extreme weather while requiring the least amount of effort. This style has roots in classic Native American home construction but has also been utilized world-wide.
  • Earth Berm: Exposing one wall for illumination and increased ventilation, this style is more-or-less a buried traditional home. The primary consideration, which we address later, is ensuring that the design is structurally sound to withstand additional weight and moisture.
  • Culvert: The most basic style also called cut-and-cover, this home is comprised of precast concrete pipes and boxes. You are able to largely mix-and-match your floor plan to ensure that this meet your needs. These are constructed on site and can be installed in excavated trenches and buried.
Construction

Double check local building codes to ensure that construction proceeds safely to minimize fire risks and maximize build quality.

Lighting
Depending on average sunlight in your area, be sure to anticipate your lighting needs. Relying on artificial lighting during the day can adversely affect your health and will draw more power to keep those lights on. Consider the installation of windows on East/West sides of the home, factoring in the shape of the surrounding land. "Sky"lighting (or ground lighting you could say) would allow illumination for centralized rooms that aren't on the outskirts of the structure. Solar tubes are effective to funnel light directly from the outside and perform largely the same as sky lights. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the outer-walls will maximize daytime light exposure.

Materials/Installations
As you construct your home, ensure that the materials you use are hardy enough to withstand the different rigors of an underground house. Humidity and moisture are a much higher priority. Ensure that materials are rated for damp conditions. All metal installations need to be rust-proofed to ensure that they will last for decades if and when they are exposed to constant moisture. Soft materials such as ducting and insulation need to be guarded against mold and protected accordingly.

Plumbing/Septic
Plumbing has subtle differences to take into consideration as well. If you choose a septic system, be sure that it is accessible and located away from the house. In the event that it ruptures, due to cold weather or otherwise, it won't come into contact with the homes outer walls. Gravity affects both septic and city sewage connections. If your system is below the collection or outflow lines, you will need a sufficiently powerful pump to force sewage up and out.

Utilities

Electricity

If your home is to be built in a relatively sunny area, solar panel technology is experiencing large gains in efficiency. Some states offer tax credits and rebates if you install these cells to help offset electricity consumption. With a larger amount of exposed ground, you can install these panels to maximize solar collection.

Solar power is excellent when it is used for appliances that consume the most power. On average, water heaters and air conditioners are the most power-hungry fixtures in the home. When connected to solar power, you can drastically cut down on one of the biggest power expenses.

During the brightest times of the year, you can collect solar energy for a substantial portion of the day. When you have reliable sun for extended periods of time, storing that power is of less concern. However, if you have variable sun exposure in areas that get cloudy, you can make your installation more flexible with batteries for when you have reduced sunlight.

Should you collect more power than you can store or use, some utility companies will even buy back access power that you generate. It's always nice to see your power meter run backwards and see credits to your electrical bill.

Centralized air conditioning is great, however, one of the benefits of an underground home is that it maintains temperature very well. You can offset running centralized AC with a 14000 BTU portable air conditioner.

Benefits
Underground dining room

Some of the many benefits of an underground home mainly fall into two categories: efficiency and reduced maintenance. In regards to efficiency, we have enumerated how you can save money on heating and cooling. More to the point, this directly correlates to helping out the environment as you contribute less CO2 to the atmosphere and consume fewer resources in the process. Moreover, your home can meet higher water conservation standards to further increase efficiency and eco-friendliness.

Reduced maintenance comes in the form of less upkeep and higher durability. You home will be better protected against environmental wear and tear such as sun damage to the exterior of your home. Sunlight will bleach wood and paint requiring them to be repaired or replaced. As far as weather, wind and rain won't eat away at your roof or siding. Your home, on the whole, is safe from extreme or intense weather.

Risks and Concerns

Carefully weighing the benefits, here are a few risks or special concerns that need to be taken into account. As mentioned, as this is not a typical building, so be sure to utilize materials that are capable of handling these kinds of environments.

Leaks and mold:
This type of housing is much more susceptible to mold and water damage as gravity prevails and water can pool or become trapped in or around the house. Due to higher amounts of humidity, you need to be sure that extra precautions are taken to reduce ambient moisture. Ensure that adequate ventilation and drainage are available to prevent water from becoming trapped around or under your home.

Earthquake
In most cases, earthquakes impact underground homes less simply because they do not rest on the ground are not damaged as much by swaying or rocking. However, there are always concerns about cracks that may occur in foundations and walls.

Fire
In the event of an uncontrolled fire, be sure that if a fire crew needs to access your home, they can. Make sure that entry and doorways are clear to provide the fastest possible route through your property.

Pests
Consider your area and what pests are present as they can wreak havoc on a home with little access to walls and exteriors. You may need to invest in regular pest management services.