The structure of the home was factory-built in Vermont by Connor Homes.
The site plan put the home in a prime location to capture the panoramic back valley views and ensure none of the neighboring homes could be seen. The direct southern views give some passive solar benefit in winter.
A grading plan was developed with special attention to the drainage necessary to handle the sometimes torrential rainfall this region gets as well as to create a natural looking site with sufficient flat space around the house. Water does not collect around the house and we have had no issues with drainage in the years we’ve lived here.
Water collects in the rocky swale along the driveway, the house gutter system or the larger drains in the meadow. All direct water into the year around creek at the bottom of the main lot.
The slope of the driveway was carefully adjusted (lowered) with winter conditions in mind. Driving access was created to get down to the rear basement entrance and to drive up and west to a small storage shed that sits in a open area in the forest. When the house was built, the main driveway was gravel. We installed an asphalt driveway in 2015 and added an open parking spot for a small travel trailer on the north side of the carport.
The house construction is unusual for this area. Our architect, Peter LaBau, had Connor Homes build his barn / garage / office structure so he was familiar with their work. There are so many advantages to factory building the house structure, not the least of which are the exceptional quality of the lumber used and the fact it is kept indoors during the build. The wall and roof components were shipped to the site by semi and trucked up the mountain. The assembly process takes days, as opposed to weeks to stick build the structure on site.
Everything was under cover by the time the winter snow hit.
Careful consideration was given to the house systems – water, power, drainage and sewage.
The water source is a well drilled to 700′ to achieve a measured 12 gal/minute pressure. The well is located east of the satellite dish in the upper meadow. An 80 gal pressure tank in the basement utility room provides the water to the house. The water tested clean in 2013. We tested it for everything the lab was able to test for. It tastes delicious. Two tankless water heaters provide fast and unlimited hot water to the house.
Please note – there is a 1000 gal water tank still buried in the yard just east of the driveway. It is capped by a small pile of rocks. This tank is fed by an artisan creek. The tank now overflows and the overflow is what you see as a creek below the small antique barn. This was the water source for the cabin that was on the property when we bought it.
Appalachian Power provides electricity to the house. The lines are run underground from our property line to the house. There have been periodic storm outages and for that reason, we added a power generator. It is connected to the entire house. We did run a test to see if it could power the entire house, turning everything on including laundry / lights / air conditioning. It did fine but you do have to be aware that it might be possible to overwhelm it given the draw on it is not limited. The generator automatically detects a loss of power and switches on within 10 seconds. We hardly notice a bounce in power. We do have UPSs on all sensitive elements (computers, audio / visual components) in the house however, to ensure they are not damaged.
There is a 1000 gal propane tank buried in the yard west of the house. This is a rented tank from Davenport Energy, it simply makes no financial sense to purchase it. There is no rental fee if the minimum amount of propane (currently 500 gal annually) is purchased per year. 2017 was the first time we had to pay the rental fee of $100 for the year. The 2016-2017 winter was unseasonably warm. Propane is primarily used for winter heating, but it also fuels the tankless water heaters and kitchen cook top. We did pipe a propane line to the screen porch for use with a BBQ.
BUILT TO LAST
The house has a three zone heating / cooling heat pump systems to control temperatures properly in the different levels. The basement and second floor systems are all electric. The main house uses an auto-switching duel fuel system. When temperatures drop below 40 degrees outside, the main house heating switches to propane. This portion of the house also has a Nest thermostat for additional energy savings. The basement and second floor have standard thermostats.
The fire alarms throughout the house are also Nest brand. These are better quality than what is generally installed. Some of the alarms are on the pitched ceilings in the house, so the real value of these alarms is that you can turn them off from your phone app.
The house is on a septic system with a septic field located in the lower pasture south of the house.
We installed an RV dump station within reach of the upper portion of the driveway. This allowed visitors with smaller RVs to park on the upper meadow next to the driveway and have access to water/power/septic. The available power does not support RV air conditioners. These are not generally needed, the cooler temperatures and breezes on the mountain make things quite comfortable most days.
One very welcome and unique feature of this house are the custom vent covers. Anyone that lives in the region is familiar with stink bugs. These bugs can crawl in as little as 1/8″ gaps. A vent, to them, is a bug super highway. Our contractor covered the vents with handmade screen covers that match the exterior of the house. You’re welcome. You want these.
The barn was built in 2015 and the hen house / coops added in 2016. The barn sits reasonably close to the house for winter accessibility. The floor of the barn is a compressed crushed rock. There is both water and electricity in the barn, in the front of the barn and in the chicken coops.