I have an idea i wanted to get some feedback on…nothing groundshaking or new i am sure, just want to find out if anyone else has tried this and how it worked out… We are getting ready to move to 40 acres north of Kingman,Az. Remote land with no power. It will be solar PV,wind,generator backup in a 1000 sq ft or so inground house…lower floor set 4′ deep, block or poured walls to grade and upper sections maximum insulation…a ‘pit’house if you will.

What i am trying to do is moderate temperature swings in the house thru day/night, winter/summer cycles without added heat/cool of any kind except normal cooking and BTU’s from 2 people. I will be using buried piping (6’ deep) for most of the ground temp source plus the uninsulated walls/floor below ground for maximum earth contact.

I am thinking of using an indoor waterfall or waterwall that recirculates the water thru the underground piping to capture interior heat as it falls/flows and to add humidity..but also balance out the houses temps year around..the piping would go under the floor slab first before going to the top section of the waterfall, then to a catch basin and from there pumped back thru the under earth portion piping to complete the loop…no antifreeze and water can renewed as needed at the basin..energy use in the house will be low , so a small pump wont hurt in the planned off grid system.

The roof is probably the most critical surface in such a warm, arid, low latitude location. Your sun runs high in the sky. You need to insulate, out from the house, horizontally, maybe a foot under the surface, so those walls will have a fairly stabile ground temperature against them. Search: “PAHS” 6′ is not all that deep.

If I were building there. I would use berms (use the earth, you remove) to keep the sun off the west, and north walls, and insulate the berms, like I described above. Then I would use a roof pond, for my heating and cooling system. Search: “roof pond” “skytherm”I don’t see any reason to run the water through the ground. In the summer, evaporation is what will do the cooling. That will not be helped by pumping it through the ground. Just have the pool, at the bottom of the falls. That will do a lot of cooling. If you need more, you can turn the falls on, or spray a little water onto the rocks.

In the winter, the ground loop will only have a high enough temperature, to do you any good, if you use a heat pump. With a roof pond system, you can radiate your heat out to the absolute cold of infinite space, any clear night.

Sounds like it going to be a great house. I designed a few waterfalls into sunspaces for design clients, but not a one, every built them. I explained that all they needed was a faucet at the top, and a drain at the bottom, and they could turn it on and off, sort of like a fireplace. I also suggested, getting rocks on vacations, so that whenever they used their waterfall, it would show them memories. I guess, during house design, was not the time to hit them with so many new ideas. Now, over the past few years, fountains got popular, so people don’t think indoor waterfalls are so far out. It should make a great cooling system.

I am familiar with the PAHS system and also the AGS system of Don Stephens. I am hoping to have a hybrid system utilizing the ‘best’ of both. By using the insulated underearth horizontal method, the ground temps at 6′ are brought to the same relative temps as those 20′ below surface according to studies done for both systems, so that is why i used 6′ as the example depth. In real world use, i may go deeper as it wont take much more effort or expense to move more earth. I will have the equipment to do the excavation myself as it is cheaper (for me at least ) to buy a backhoe and bobcat than to rely on ‘others’ to do the work involved. I do have experience in operating both.

This house is being styled after a traditional ‘old west’ adobe fort with a tower and parapets..the plan is to make it look like it has stood there for a century or more with built in ‘erosion’ of the facade. So, earth berming is pretty much out, the reason i sunk it into the ground. This will also give me 12′ ceilings in the main part of the house…The upper wall sections will be EPS/red iron/hat channels (R-30) with a colored concrete/fibermesh troweled surface,roof is EPS/steel single slope(R-60),metal decking. Also have researched roof ponding and while the waterbed (or any other) method would work, i will be using a catchement watersource plus PV panels on the roof and solar water heating, so roof space is at a premium. The tower will also double as a cooling tower and the additional 2nd floor as a ‘lookout’ space.

This house will also have a sunspace that the heat in the summer from it can be diverted underground to warm it for winters use or dumped into the cooling tower to use for summer, and be used as a greenhouse (Hydroponic?) in the winter. The water fall will extend floor to ceiling in the ground level tower entry portion as the heat will naturally flow to that part of the home thru convection.

As you can tell, i am trying to cover all bases, maybe to many in one home. But i think this will be the last home i ever build (i have built several for others and two for me) and as i have always had many ideas and plans for alternate living, this is my chance to implement them..i also see this house as an ongoing sustainable living project that i have wanted to pursue for the last 30 years. I don’t expect everything to work out as planned, but i am determined to try out as many as i can…So far, the hardest part is convincing the “SO” that we don’t need 3000sq feet to live in. She is coming around tho now that she see’s we keep a large portion of the house closed off summer and winter to save costs. My interests have always run to the ‘extreme’ type homes also, but even i am not ready to buy an old plane or boat hull and live in it.