Archive for September, 2011

GE GeoSpring Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

September 19, 2011 2 comments

The house uses a GE GeoSpring heat pump water heater. This is a heat pump that pumps heat energy out of the air and into the water. I put it behind the fridge since the fridge is a heat pump that pumps heat out of the fridge contents and into the room. It’s also in the pantry, because the water heater takes heat energy out of the air so it cools its surroundings, thereby cooling the pantry. Here is how I described the layout to the architects:

Pantry Water Heater Layout idea

Pantry Water Heater Layout idea


And here is how the architect plans ended up:

Pantry architect plans

Pantry architect plans


There will need to be a louvre between the pantry/water heater room and the 1/2 bath (toilet) to ensure there is enough air for the heat pump to operate, which will also help air-condition the downstairs 1/2 bath which doesn’t otherwise have an A/C outlet. I always like getting a side-benefit for free!

The heater includes a backup electric heating element if it can’t get enough energy from the air (that’s where the ‘Hybrid’ comes in, marketing name, sound like a hybrid car which we all know is green and good). This thing also includes hooks for future smart-grid support, so it would be able to schedule itself for the cheapest ‘leccy (smart-grid is like dynamic Economy 7 where the grid tells you when the ‘leccy is cheapest). Of course we will not be using that feature initially as smart-grid is not happening just yet in Lakeway, we haven’t even got gas and mains drains yet!

We went to Lowes yesterday and it was on sale, reduced from $1399 to $999! I immediately bought one even though we are not yet ready for it to ensure I got the sale price – I always like to get a bargain 🙂 This thing qualifies for a 30% tax credit too (parts and labor) so it’s eventual cost is only going to be $700 (we can claim the sales tax back from the federal tax in Texas too). And it’s claimed to save around $320/year on your electric bill. Result!

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First disaster (partially) averted

September 5, 2011 1 comment

Our building lot sits on a sloping site with natural limestone rock outcrop terraces. To minimize excavation and foundation costs and to reflect the landscape surrounding it, I had the architect design the house on multiple levels. So rather than try and level the sloping lot, I had it designed so that there would never be a need to level or excavate more than 2 feet. The way that it is supposed to work is that you level the sloping lot up to 2 feet, then when you’ve exceeded 2ft drop, the adjoining room takes a 2ft drop down in level via some steps and then you level that. Thus the levels in the house match the surrounding landscape, and it minimizes excavation costs too. As you move into progressively more private spaces you move down in level.

So imagine my surprise when I went out to the lot on Saturday and saw this:

I immediately called Robert the builder and he said “yes it seemed a bit odd to me but that’s the level the plans call for”. Yes maybe, but if it seems wrong it probably is! So I met him and the foundation guy there today. To cut a long story short, the levels on the plan from the surveyors differ from the levels the foundation guy is reading by 4ft! (Verified by cross-checking the level of a nearby tree). Thus where the maximum depth of digging should be 2ft it’s actually 6ft! I can’t say which elevation reading is wrong but it doesn’t matter anyway. My attitude is that these levels should be treated as relative not absolute. GPS heights are never that accurate anyway compared with positions.

Now we have a problem, what to do? Building back up is going to be a lot of work. So as a compromise the excavator guy is bringing in around 15 lorry-loads of dirt to build the level back up 2ft for the house, but only 1ft for the garage. Building up everything 4ft would be a lot of work! Now the garage will be 2ft lower than the entrance level of the house as opposed to the 1ft lower that was originally planned. It isn’t an ideal solution but it’ll have to do. But it is very, very frustrating that we have to pay to dig a BFO hole in the ground and then pay to fill it back in again, when the plans were especially created to not need much excavation. But at least the house will not be built underground which was never the plan but was narrowly averted if I hadn’t intervened.

And guys, if the plans seem wrong they probably are. Common sense should prevail over dogged following of things that are obviously not quite right.