Should You Put Your Home Theater In Your Mortgage?


Staff member
by Jerry Del Colliano

While the U.S. economy has been stalled for most of the last 3 years under the Bush administration one element of the economy that continues to party like its 1999 is real estate. Fueled by millions of new Generation X buyers along with 40 year-low interest rates, Americans are buying and upgrading homes at a record pace.

Both Gen X and Baby Boomer customers demand new luxuries from any home they would buy including professional kitchens, ultra-high tech energy efficiency and even state of the art home theaters. Builders ranging from mass market mega-companies to one-off custom contractors are now building in everything from home networking to home automation to media rooms into the cost of a house. The question is – is this a smart move for the savvy home theater enthusiast?

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not sure, I would have done this if I knew they could do this, but I probably would have been bankrupt by now lol
If I were building a house that I knew would be the house I was going to live in for the rest of my life, I'd do it.. I'd definitely do it for the hard-wired parts, and do as much of it myself as possible.
The rough construction of my theater room was covered in the construction loan. One of my PCs (HS) was covered in my geothermal heat system that had energy tax credits. It also runs on the low $ / killowat electric meter that powers the heat pump (and electric water heater and fans). If I had the time, I would have finished the theater on the construction loan (converted to an end loan 1 year later). Well, it actually took 3 years later ;)

BTW, the geothermal heat pump saves bucku bucks in heat costs. If I was on propane (no natural available) or even natural, I couldn't afford so many HA toys!

Please tell us more about that geothermal system! I need to figure out something to do in my house. These electric bills get pretty high here in the summer!


I have a Hydroheat heat pump. It is 69,000 btu's of heat. This handles heating my house for 90% of the time. A high efficiency propane furnace (110,000 btu's) supplements the hydro on the very coldest days. This is about the most efficient sizing of the heat pump and aux heat. The propane furnace sits ontop of the heat pump and the fan is in the propane furnace. I use a AprilAire air filter unit and two Homeseer controlled humidifiers on the furnace (1 wire humidity sensing) in the winter.

Quick overview of heat pumps:
In my system, my fresh water well (3/4 hp pump w/ 80 gallon expansion tank) pumps 43 degree ground water (Michigan) to the heat pump. Inside the heat pump is a 5 ton compressor - similar to what you would find in a large A/C outside unit. Basically, the heat pump works like A/C in reverse: the BTUs from the water are extracted into the freon which when the freon is passed into a low pressure zone, gives off the BTUs into the forced air stream, heating the house. The furnace is adjusted to drop the water to 32.5 degrees (just above freezing) which is then pumped out underground and deposited in my lake. The fish love the cold water coming out in the summer!

All the in and out plumbing is monitored by Homeseer using 1 wire temp devices. If the water gets too cold (freeze alert), Homeseer shuts down the heat plant. I have mechanical thermostats running in parallel as safety devices if the auto system goes haywire.

On some heat pumps, you can "run them in reverse" and air condition the house in the summer. For mine, I chose the "domestic hot water" option instead. This is designed to cycle the hot water through the heat pump continually circulating it until it warms the hot water as the domestic hot water supply. I plan on using this second circuit to heat water for a sauna instead. Sauna heat pumps are about $2,000 or so by themselves.

When I purchased my heat pump system, Detroit Edison was running a trial program in which they gave $'s back for trying heat pump instead of gas heaters. For my case I got back a check of $5,000 as I qualified for all awards. The qualifications were based on building the house with new energy saving methods.

Methods used in my house include: 9" foam form concrete filled basement walls, cellulose insulation in 2x6 outside walls and foam filled 2x4 walls, 12" cellulose filled ceiling (R40 from memory), electric fans for air distribution, heat exchanger for replacing stale inside air with fresh outside air while passing heat from the stale air to the fresh air, control system (Homeseer) that times peak usage times and vacant times to drop heat, Argon filled tinted windows, Tyvek house wrap, 2" foam under concrete floor, radiant floor heat in concrete, foam filled wall blocking, and on and on.... ps - the house is pretty energy efficient.

All these energy saving methods really add up. The 69,000 BTU heat pump heats a 6,500 sq ft house that the main floor has 37 ft high ceilings - lots of cubic ft to heat. There is also 65 windows with lots of sq footage of glass (not good for energy, but look great). The heat ducts are insulated to keep heat lose to a minimum. With conventional build methods, I would have had to have multiple propane furnaces.

Back to the Hydroheat - has broken down quite a few times and the company support and Michigan rep are pathetic (mostly the rep co.). If I was to do it again, I would look into Water Furnace brand. My recollection is that the heat pump unit was around $4,500 uninstalled.

In the summer, the cold well water is switched by Homeseer to a coil mounted in the top of the propane furnace which chills the summer air. The warmed well water is then sent to the lake. For really hot days, I have a more conventional 5 ton A/C unit that kicks on.

The heat pump also qualifies the house for a second electric utility meter which is priced per killowat much less than the household electricity (Michigan: .02336 off peak and .06276 on peak vs. .08286 residential off and .09696 residential on peak). Only the heating / domestic hot water heating is connected to this seperate power panel.

Dec electric bill: $210 for air heat / water heat
Jan electric bill: $140 for air heat / water heat
Feb electric bill: $105 for air heat / water heat

Running on propane alone would be $400 / month plus in the winter. I had to run the house the first winter on propane until the hydro setup was finished.
This winter I used only 200 gallons of propane (1/2 tank ~$225). I might have to pay a lease penalty on the tank since I didn't use a full tank ;)

EDIT: Oh, and I forgot that the first year there was a federal income energy savings tax credit that I was able to deduct the system price. Not sure if this is still around or not.
Wow, that's impressive... the house, the climate control, everything. And since I haven't had a chance to say so yet, glad to see you made it over here!
I said Hi during the last cocoon chat session! You were coming and going at that time. If I remember right, you were going schytso with your name handles so it was tough to keep up with ya. I posted "DavidL = smoothtlk" so you knew who it was ;)

Wish I could figure out a email address that I could get your flash files. They really look great. I like the cover art deal that the HS forum poster did with your Featuring art. Was that a flash file or a jpg?
Yes I was having all sorts of problems during the chat.

I can try emailing you the stuff again. Maybe I can break it down into small chunks or something.

I'm not sure of what post you're talking about at HS, though, I'll have to go search.

If you still have my email, drop me a message to remind me to try and email you the flash files again. The laptop I was using at the time I created all that stuff has since been reformatted and turned back in to work, so I've lost your emails, but I've burned all the files to a CD, so I still have them!
Wow, that's cool. I wonder how he gets the cover art that's superimposed over the filmstrips to change everytime, or did he do it manually, creating a different image for each movie? When I get home, I'll post the components that I made the movie from (the filmstrips, which are pngs with varying transparancy, were a pain to make) maybe folks can do even more with that.

Anyway, we've really hijacked this thread, maybe we should give it back ;)