Earth room

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The earth room in the basement of the Green Garage. The earth tubes are back left; foil-covered insulated wall to the right; Altherma heat pump in the foreground.

What is an earth room?

An earth room is a below-grade room in which the exterior walls are uninsulated and interior walls and ceiling are separated with insulation to provide a thermal barrier from the conditioned space in the rest of the building.

Why create an earth room?

We created the earth room to make our heating and cooling equipment operate more efficiently. Normally commercial heating and cooling equipment is up on the roof, which is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Since the equipment is trying to produce an opposite effect in each season (produce heat in the winter, cool air in the summer), the equipment has to work harder. An earth room takes advantage of the earth's constant moderate temperature to increase the efficiency of the equipment.

How was the earth room created?

Because we have a partial basement, we segregated our earth room so that the heat transfer only occurs at the true exterior wall. The opposite wall of our basement lies beneath the building so it was not a good candidate for being part of the earth room.

So to build the earth room, we insulated the ceiling and built an insulated wall to separate the earth room thermally from the rest of the building. We installed the heat pump in the earth room. Because the heat pump's rate of heat transfer was greater than the earth room's recovery rate, we also put in a ventilation system to help. Our inlet air comes from our earth tubes and a fan exhausts the air from our existing chimney.

How is it working?

Not bad. We're studying it now.


Laurie Catey taking us on a tour of the earth room in our basement.

See also