Geothermal Installation: Part 2


Currently we have hit a snag in our installation of our geothermal system. The first snag was an application that missed a signature by the geo company on our permit application to the County. The second snag dealt with Miss Utility not marking the lines for the home water and sewer lines. So recently when we got home from a trip we noticed that Miss Utility had come out along with the drilling company to flag our property. My husband noticed that the drilling flags were right on top of our water and sewer lines that enter and exit our home. The county further came out and noticed the same issue. We contacted the geo company and they came out today with line locators to mark our lines in the front yard.

One obstacle is going to be the county telling the Geo company how far away the wells actually need to be from each line in order to drill in the correct location. Not to mention if our main line ever went out we would need to be far enough away from the wells as to not disturb them. So far Loudoun County hasn’t been any help because on three separate occasions they have told the Geo company three different distances the wells need to be from the utility lines.

At this point we are completely frustrated with the process as it’s now January 20th and nothing has been started but a bunch of fingering pointing. If we hadn’t said anything to the County the drillers would have severed both the water and sewer line in our front yard. Here is hoping that the County inspection tomorrow goes well and we can get our permit for the wells. Drilling can’t start soon enough as the temperatures are going to dip down into the 20s for about a week.

Crossing my fingers…..


Our permit was approved and drilling can commence. Now for snag number three. We are third in line for drilling to begin and with the weather being just a tad above freezing it’s most likely going to happen in February. Makes me wonder if they hadn’t missed a signature on our application for permit would we still be waiting until February. Not to mention they have about $18,000 of our dollars with nothing but flags in our yard and our old system working hard to get through these cold days.

Geothermal System For My Home


A couple years ago I put an article together talking about Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems. My friend and her husband were installing a Geothermal Water Based Furnace in their home. A costly project that was going to take about a month to complete but in the end the money and time spent were going to be well worth it. Three years later they love their system and are almost at the break even point when it comes to the money they save on their electricity, gas bill and what they spent on their system.

My husband and I have a very open home with lots of hard to heat and cool elements in the house. One of them being the lack of heat on the main floor and abundance of heat on the second floor due to the issue of the second floor being open to the main level. The basement has always been comfortable and in the winter we would put the baseboard heaters on really low just to take the chill out of the air. Our heat pump system was installed in 2006 and the previous owners chose to take the cheap route when they chose the system. The last few winters we have been worried that the heat pump would quit on us when we had a overly chilly day. On certain days that I was home I would start a fire in the fireplace just to take a little pressure off the heat pump.

We have finally bitten the bullet and decided to go with a Geothermal heat pump system. We have plenty of yard for the wells to be drilled and it turns out they only need two 6-inch wells for the loops to be placed into the earth. So even if we didn’t have a great big yard there still would of been plenty of room. In the end there will only be one unit on the inside of the house and our outside heat pump unit will be removed. When we started looking at systems we found there are two (2) different options to choose from. The first system is your basic Water furnace system and the other is what they call a DX  or direct exchange system. Here are the differences:


Water Furnace

A WaterFurnace geothermal heat pump uses the ground loop to extract heat from the ground when heating your home. The system then takes the heat and distributes it to the conventional duct system. This same heat can be used to heat the water in your hot water heater also saving energy and dollars. The ground loop system is made from Earth Loop that pumps a water-based solution through a polyethylene pipe.

When cooling your home the process is reversed. The heat from the air in your home is placed either back into the ground or put towards your hot water heater needs.

Direct Exchange

In the Direct Exchange system you have the same basic concept but with one less step and different piping. Refrigerant is sent through copper piping where the ground heat moves across the copper piping without the need to use a water pump to circulate water through plastic ground loops. One issue that the system needs to overcome is the copper becoming compromised in the ground and one way to do this is to add an anode. The anode acts to protect the copper by sacrificing itself to corrosion thus protecting the copper piping. One benefit is the loop system does not have to be  as large as a water based system thus can be placed in areas where space is limited. Another advantage is the one step exchange of heat in the system versus the two steps required in a water based system.

In the end, the husband and I chose the WaterFurnace for two reasons. The copper piping and refrigerant used in the system worried us when it came time to replace the pipes and the potential environmental repercussions if a pipe were to burst. Also the Direct Exchange system has only been in existence for about 10 years whereas the water-based system has been around for more than 30 years. The people that can work on and maintain the water-based system are in the hundreds compared to the select few that work on Direct Exchange systems in Northern Virginia.

The whole process is going to take about a month to complete but with only about 6 hours without heat. If the day is bitterly cold the contractors over at North American Geothermal will have space heaters for us to take away the chill while they complete the install.

The first step towards completing the project was determining the tonnage of the unit needed for our home. A Manual J was performed, Room-by-Room Load Calculations provided the heating and cooling loads for each individual room within the home.  This information is critical when determining the individual duct sizes, overall layout of the duct system, and unit size needed for the home. In our case we are potentially adding on to our home increasing the square footage thus needing a 4-Ton unit versus a 3-Ton for the existing house. We decided to go with the 3-Ton unit and if we do add on in the future we will be adding a splitter system to heat and cool that larger addition.

Once this was determined, North American Geothermal has started the process of acquiring County permits to drill the well holes and ordering the equipment needed for installation. In about two weeks they will start drilling holes.

Stay Tuned to watch the installation of our new geothermal system….




How the Government Shutdown Affected the Northern VA Market?


With Northern Virginia residents mostly employed by the government or companies that support the government, the market slowed considerably. Listings sat a little bit longer and showings slowed down. If clients went to see homes they were interested in they chose to wait until the government settled the shutdown.

Even though the government was shutdown the home buying process didn’t slow down when it came to lending and closing deals. Lenders were okay with moving forward as long as employment was the same and there was no change in credit score.

Since the government has put off the fiscal crisis for another couple months, the market returned to normal. We still are suffering from lower inventory with a good amount of buyers still looking in the market. Homes are sitting a little bit longer but if the home is priced appropriately and in great condition it will move off the market pretty quickly.

If you’re unsure if you want to purchase a new home or list your current home contact a real estate professional to inquire amount the market.

Kamber Petty, Realtor

Geothermal, another option for heating and cooling your home.

Geothermal – of or pertaining to the internal heat of the earth.

A few years ago when we purchased our first single family home we discussed installing a Geothermal System to heat the house and save a few dollars a month. At the time we figured it was too expensive to install and kind of crazy so we never researched the system. Instead we replaced the 25-year old wood windows and re-insulated the attic. Most homes spend most of their energy bills during the summer months. Our home is surrounded by 30-year old Oak and Poplar trees. When the leaves are on the trees during the summer months we are shaded and cool. During the winter months we see our energy bills double. My husband is always worried that our heat pump is not working efficiently and may quit on us due to the age.

Good friends of ours, both engineers, did a ton of research and decided to take the plunge and install a closed loop geothermal system. The loops contain water/anti-freeze fluid and as the fluid moves through the pipes it draws heat from the ground. Once the fluid passes through the heat pump, the heat pump uses electricity to extract the heat. The heat is then used to warm the house. If the system is run in the opposite direction the cooled fluid can be used to cool the house. The electricity used is minimal compared to the electricity used solely to heat a home. It is also a lot cheaper than using oil due to the ever flux in oil prices.

Overall they spent between 25K and 35K and in three to five years they will have recouped everything they spent to install and purchase the system. According to the EPA, homeowners will save approximately 30-70% on heating costs and 25-50% on cooling costs. Our friends will also get a 30% Tax Credit for installing an energy efficient system. This Tax Credit is available through 2016 and is different than the home efficiency tax credit.

Even if you’re not into the Green Movement it’s hard to pass up on the savings per year. The hardest thing to swallow would be the up front cost to install and purchase the system. But if you’re looking to sell your home in the future the reduction of energy costs would be an attractive selling point. For even more information check out Furnace Compare. 

Northern Virginia 2014 Spring Market Shows No Signs of Stopping

We’re headed into the summer market with the same low inventory, steady stream of buyers and ever increasing prices. Is this safe? Are we setting ourselves up for another down turn of the market?

For the first time home buyer  its been an increasingly rough market to purchase the home of their dreams. We’re seeing move-in ready properties receive multiple offers in less than 24 hours. Escalation addendums are almost always a must and not only are our clients biting their nails so are the real estate agents. Key things for first time home buyers:

  • Pre-approval letter from a Bank of your choice. Feel free to shop around to see what is out there. You’re not picking your loan just yet but certain institutions might have credits for first time home buyers.
  • Learn your numbers. Know your credit scores and what you can afford. Do not burden yourself with a large mortgage even though a loan officer tells you can afford more. If you’re just figuring this out after you have a ratified contract then you’ve put yourself and your agent in a bad spot.
  • Hire a Realtor you have a good feeling about. Maybe it’s a referral from a coworker or a family member. Remember you will be spending a lot of time with them. If you’re a young couple, a Real Estate Veteran in their fifties might not be the right match up.
  • It’s okay to say NO! Tell your Realtor right away if you don’t like something. It won’t hurt our feelings but it will help us to understand where you’re coming from.
  • After you receive a ratified contract continually check in with your Realtor and Loan Officer to assure that everything is on track. If they are doing their jobs then the process will have a lot less hiccups. Answer all emails and phone calls right away to assure that all items arrive on time.
  • Part of putting an offer on a home is enclosing an Earnest Money Deposit. The Earnest Money Deposit is anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the property size. The check will be deposited in a non-interest bearing account with your Real Estate Broker once you have a ratified contract. These monies will go towards your closing cost/down payment at settlement.
  • Other fees that will come up during the home buying process will be the cost of a Home Inspection, Radon Testing and Appraisal. All these will be due at the time of service. Check with your Realtor and Lender for current fees.
  • Expect a few issues right before settlement. It doesn’t always happen but you never know. Don’t get angry just ask how it can be rectified so you can make it to closing. Don’t get frustrated with the lender if they ask you for another document. Remember they are taking a gamble on you to loan you hundreds of thousands of dollars so it doesn’t hurt for them to want a little more information before you sit down to sign the documents.

If you’re a seller in this market and your home is in decent condition and a nice location you’re not having to wait long for that first contract. We’re seeing seller’s agents waiting a few days to review offers with their clients to ensure they are receiving the highest and best contract. Open Houses are being canceled due to multiple offers being received before the end of a weekend. In high trafficked areas I’ve seen Open Houses being conducted during the week while the sellers are at work so as not to interrupt their weekend. A few things sellers must take into account:

  • People will be coming to your home during the hours that you set with your Realtor. Make sure things are tidy and any pets are set up with notes on how to handle interactions with the pets. The more people see the home the better chance you’ll receive an offer. 
  • Don’t be greedy! Remember you were that young person on the other side of the table once too. Take in account that this is a business transaction but in the end someone is taking a chance on buying your home and are hoping to get a great home in the end.
  • You may think your home is in mint condition but in reality it might need a few fixes. If you know of anything that might need some repair have it done before it goes on the market. You can be sure that the home inspector will find it and the buyer will want it repaired before settlement.
  • Once on the market don’t get upset about an offer that might come in low. Just counter back with what you would like for the property. If it works out then you can move towards settlement. If it doesn’t work out there will always be another.

In response to the multiple offers buyer’s agents are offering their clients the option of passing on a  typical Home Inspection and conducting an informational Home Inspection. With the informational Home Inspection a buyer has the right to bring in a Home Inspector but not ask for any fixes to occur at the seller’s cost. Is it risky? Maybe, the Home Inspection is treated as a pass or fail situation. The other risk that some buyers are taking is dropping the appraisal contingency and rolling the dice that the property will appraise for the ratified contract price. If you’re flush with cash this is not a problem but a young buyer may not want to take this risk. This risk would force the young buyer to use more cash at settlement they may not have in the bank if the appraisal comes in low.

Now that I’ve scared you with all this current information let me tell you that my clients have been getting some really nice homes at pretty good prices. Patience is key. A property will eventually come along and at the right price. True North Realty’s Motto is Success is Client Satisfaction which means we will work hard till you find the right property at the right price and all the way to the settlement table.


**Just my opinion on today’s real estate market…..:)

More Delays for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Silver Line

imagesCAXG1CGJMy family and I have enjoyed watching the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Silver Line being built along the Technology corridor in Reston and in Tyson’s Corner. Phase 1 of the Silver Line will be completed during the winter of next year!

Phase 1 will include 5 Metro Stations, 4 in Tyson’s Corner and 1 in Reston at Wiehle Ave. Passengers will be able to take the Silver Line all the way to Stadium/Armory in D.C. without having to transfer trains.

Will Phase 2 be constructed?

Yes. Loudoun County voted back in July to support the construction of the final phase of the Silver Line. The second phase will include 6 Stations including Reston Town Center, Dulles Airport and Ashburn Stations. Anticipated completion of the project is 2018.

This project is a huge accomplishment for the area. It will allow professionals to travel back and forth from D.C. while living in the Western Fairfax and Eastern Loudoun Counties. For monthly updates and more information on the new Silver Line click here.

***Update New Silver Line is expected to open January 2014 and with new construction beginning with the rest of line at the same time

***Latest Update has the Silver Line being opened in the Spring or Summer of 2014. Currently the software system used to drive the train is experiencing enough issues that they have not released the Metro line into the hands of the WMATA. Once these non safety issues are repaired the Metro line will be up and running.

****2014 Update. Sadly the Metro shows no sign of opening due to the software issues they have been dealing with for over a year.

Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition, Your Family’s Guide to Local Fun!

I’ve been honored to meet both SuperNOVAMommy (Micaela) & DC Metro Mom (Claudine & Amy) doing various blogger and charity events with my park review website Both of their sites cater to families in the DC Metro Area in a way that gets a ton of information out about local events and places families can go with the kids. They decided to research and join their knowledge of the Northern Virginia Area by writing a guide, Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition. Thus putting all the local activities and places like parks, museums, bounce houses, birthday places and more into one book.

“It is our hope that this book becomes an indispensable resource that area families come back to again and again throughout their parenting years,” says author Micaela Williamson. She adds, “I have lived in Northern Virginia for a decade and didn’t even know some of the places in this book existed. It was fun to learn and discover as we researched the book too.”

The book comes in both ebook and paperback and is available on Amazon and Smashwords. I personally like the paperback because I can leave it in the car to reference it when I need to. But the ebook is also a wealth of information with all the web links you can click on for more information. It also makes the perfect gift for my clients on settlement day!

If you’re new to the Northern Virginia area or recently started a family check out and you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter at GoKidTrips.



South Riding, Virginia

South Riding is a planned community located in Loudoun County, Virgina. Nestled between Chantilly, VA and Aldie, VA, South Riding offers the complete package. Located off Route 50 and Route 28, residents can easily access the Dulles, Reston, and Tyson’s Corner Technology Corridor.

South Riding is a great place for young professionals, active individuals and families with children. The community offers single family homes, townhomes and condos. Three shopping centers allow residents to run errands while staying close to home. A network of fitness trails offer residents a safe place to walk, jog, and ride bikes. South Riding offers several community pools and clubhouses available to all residents. If you enjoy golf, South Riding includes it’s own golf course, South Riding Golf Club. Families with children will have access to great schools from the pre-school level all the way up to high school. Tot lots and parks are located throughout the community and within walking distance of most homes.

South Riding is a beautiful community with many amenities. The location near government and private employers makes it a very sought after place to settle down. Let me show you what South Riding has to offer!

New Agency Laws Starting July 1, 2012

Agency-means every relationship in which a real estate licensee represents or acts for a person in a real estate transaction.

As of July 1, 2012 changes to Residential Standard Agency Laws has Brokers and Realtors adjusting the way they represent clients. The days of the “handshake” or verbal agreement are over. New clients are asked to sign Brokerage Agreements with the Representing Real Estate Firm and other agreements pertaining to real estate transactions. This way the client completely understands all the duties the Broker/Realtor are required to perform and fees that come along with each real estate activity.

Before any licensed activity can occur a Brokerage Agreement must be signed. A few examples of “licensed activity” are:

  • Showing properties to potential buying clients
  • Offering professional advice on potential listing client
  • Setting up MLS home searches
  • Negotiating lease rental payments or security deposits

I can completely understand how this might turn off some clients since in most everyones mind signing a contract is a very serious commitment but so is buying or selling a home. For example, a typical Right To Represent Buyers Agreement is anywhere from 90 to 120 days typically. The agreement ensures the Agent will follow through with all fiduciary duties during a real estate transaction. The agreement also educates a client on their rights and explains how the Broker/Agent will be representing them during a real estate transaction.

The new Agency Law changes ensure everyone in the transaction knows what to expect with no surprises.





As a Homeowner or Renter are you prepared for the unexpected?

This past week proved to be challenging with the infamous “Derecho” blowing through town. It caught a lot of people unprepared to be without power for several days at a time in the summer heat. This got me thinking about what I would need in the future in case we were without power for several days and what supplies we would need.

There are many different Storm Preparedness Checklists out on the internet for many different situations. In addition to the emergency items you might need you can also prevent damage to your home:

  • Trim all trees away from your home and neighbor’s home
  • Clear all gutters and drains of debris so water can drain away from home and not flood the basement
  • Battery back up for basement sump pump and marine battery tender to recharge battery

By making sure you have these items completed you better your chances of having less damage and headache later. For long term power outages it’s a good idea to have a family plan and checklist to get you through the days without power. Here are a few items you might want to keep on hand in the event we have a bad storm:

  • A gas powered generator to run a few items like fans, refrigerator, lamps, and a few charging docks. ***WATCH THE AMOUNT OF ITEMS YOU HAVE PLUGGED IN AT ONE TIME*** Extra fuel is also very helpful to have on hand to keep the generator running.
  • Bottled water in the case of water contamination is great to use for cooking and consumption. Filling a bathtub or containers right after the storm is also a good way to have fresh water available for cleaning.
  • Non-perishable food items, canned or packaged along with juices and snacks. Paper goods like plates and utensils are easy and you don’t have to worry about clean up.
  • Flashlights with extra batteries.
  • Telephone, extra cellphone batteries and traditional plug in landline telephone.
  • Battery powered Radio and extra batteries.
  • Blankets, pillows and depending on the temperature extra seasonal clothes.
  • Additional pet food, seperate bottled water and pet leashes or carriers for each pet in case of evacuation.
  • First Aid Kit fully stocked and seperated from every day use.
  • Cash and Credit Cards in case Banks and ATMs are out of service for a period of time.
  • For families with children, non battery operated games and activities to pass the time.

These are just a few things you can prepare before a major storm event occurs to make life a little easier. The Red Cross has a very informative Storm Preparedness site if you need additional information for each possible storm event.