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Would love to hear the pros and cons of home owner's energy efficient heating and cooling.  I've been thinking about geothermal heat pumps, but not sure how affordable that will be.  Anyone using that?  Also radiant heat, perhaps in the basement level since we could install it in the concrete flooring... but for now this will just be a vacation home until we retire there full time.  Would radiant heat in the basement affect the main living level above it since heat rises?  Thinking maybe just to keep the house above freezing level during the winter while not in use and use the heat pump while we're there for weekends.  Basement level will have garage and two guest rooms, main level has the master and everything else.  And then there's many options it's overwhelming!  We are building in the California foothills where the climate is rather dry, some snow in the winter (not a lot at 4000 ft elevation) and the summers do get hot.  Open to input!

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Geo-thermal is a long term cost vs. return decision, and worth it if you are building something special, to hand down to next generation. Not for flipper mentality. It will be comfortable, and not freeze the upper floor during occasional low temps. If always 20 below, maybe not. But you're in CA. The duplication of systems comes with needing AC. Depending on size and design of house, the ductwork and units could be up high only. Maybe wall shaker if small and well built cabin. Mini-splits are the rage to control multiple zones and rooms efficiently in larger designs. But don't give up on radiant.

The radiant costs will vary on type and site conditions. Drilling rock vertically vs horizontal and water table, etc. every county has a radiant expert, but not more than one. Find the right talent, spend a little more upfront and know that the longer you keep the building, the more financial sense it makes.

Where in Ca are you building? I've been involved in a few.

Hi Chris - we'll be building in Twain Harte.  The lot is sloped and I figured since we'll need to dig into the hill and move lots of dirt for the home site as well as a 40' radius turnaround (fire dept requirement), a horizontal loop for geothermal might make sense since we're excavating anyway.  I'm now reading that a lot more land (1/2 acre or more) is needed for the horizontal system.  A verticle loop system is a lot more expensive.  Had I thought of this when we put in the well, it might have made more sense (cost effective).   I need to get some prices and weigh it against the 30% federal tax credits to see if it's worth the expense.

What is a wall shaker?  As for the well built cabin - we'll be going with energy efficient windows, have the house facing southeast, and large overhangs.  I need to familiarize myself with roofing insulation options.  Hoping to afford the metal roof with cool pigment to keep the heat down during the summer.

Horizontal loops will require more land (without lots of rocks), but a 1/2 acre extra seems too much.  Maybe a 1/4?  Has to do with size of house and climate zone.

A "wall shaker" is a heating and air conditioning unit for not-so-large spaces (Mitsubishi makes a good one).  I've seen them work well for 1100 sf area on one end of house.  Not too loud.  Smaller and quieter than commercial ones you see in motels.

A built-up roof with foil-faced urethane insulation can get you R-49 with no thermal breaks and works well with timbered rafter and roof decking look.  Depending on the metal roof paint job (color/quality), the slope and exposure to sun, you can apply a metal roof on 1x4 sleepers over this built-up 9.5" thick roof without compromise.  Some metal systems require air space for ventilation.  In California, you'll need sprinkler system in roof?  

Don't want to talk you out of a Geo-Thermal, but the 30% tax credit tail shouldn't wag the dog.  You'll pay more upfront to install (even with tax credit), but it's a hedge on inflation and future energy costs, which nobody can accurately predict.  


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