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Please take a tour of Earthbilly House.

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Earthbilly House

We should probably write some about the house. It is not the normal American home to begin with. My dad and I wanted to build a weekend cabin on our new property in 1969. It started out 17X30. Two walls are hand hewed recycled railroad ties and two walls are 24 thick creek washed stone, masonry and concrete. A huge steel heatilator fireplace fills one end. The steel fireplace was made in my dads steel fabrication shop that he ran as a second business. He was making trips to Europe for business and loved the big fireplaces in the castles and brought home several photos of his favorites. I was six years old at the time, and would sit next to him with my paper and drafting tools and draw fireplaces, imitating what he was doing. Somehow I understood how a heatilator worked, to heat air in the chamber surrounding the fire box, and designed a measured drawing of the fireplace I thought was cool. Dad recognized it to be better than his design and had it built to my drawing specs. So the fireplace is older than the house and was actually put into another house we had and sold before buying this property. We took the heatilator with us and built our cabin around it. The roof of the original cabin is recycled 2x10s we bought, still full of square nails, cleaned and put up. After Mom and dad decided they would move here when they retired, we added a full modern kitchen, master bedroom and an underground concrete room we call the cave. Later was added the dinning room, back porch and second bedroom on an upper level. It is important to note that all of the additions were made from solid stone curbstones and cobble stones torn out of the old warehouse district streets where the Arch now stands in St. Louis. These stones were quarried pre civil war and were being thrown into levies in the Mississippi river. Dad knew someone down town and had some stones delivered to his business near Forrest Park instead of dumped. The supply lasted about a year until someone else decided to pay for them and got the rest.  We had enough to begin construction of the additions. The stones weigh up to one half ton each, are 7 thick, 18 wide and up to 8 long. I decided to put the smoothed side that was originally the exposed curb, to the inside and the rougher root side to the outside of the house.  So the walls are 18 thick architectural antique stone. The back of the house contacts the earth. The result is a huge thermal mass that stays cool long into the summer and stays warm long into the winter. I have estimated that there is 170 cubic yards of concrete and rock maintaining temperature control for 2400 square feet of living space.

We started to reduce our electricity dependency by the first step everyone can take to help reduce your bill and reduce the need for more carbon emitting power plants. We changed to compact florescent bulbs and put in small florescent fixtures in the high use areas. Ive never been fond of the quality of light that comes from florescent, but now with more knowledge about wavelength and full spectrum bulbs available, it isnt so bad. We changed our freezer to Energy Star rated.  We removed the wasteful five gallon toilets and put in 1.6 gallon toilets. We have never been happy with the electric cook tops performance, although it looks good and is fairly easy to keep clean. We decided to throw out the electric range and oven and put in a high efficiency pilotless propane range with oven. We have propane for our back up generator, so it wasnt much of a stretch to include this appliance.  We will quit using two window air conditioners, the electric water heater and the inside wood furnace, (always a source of serious dirt), and have bought a 2 ton geothermal heat pump. We will make use of our pond near the house for the heat sink, and use a solar hydronic heater for back up to the inter super cooler on the heat pump for our domestic hot water needs.

We needed a new steel roof and while at it added 4.5 inches of dense green board polystyrene insulation.  The difference in climate control was amazing with this upgrade alone. 

 

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