Dec 2012 Howard Hall Newsletter: Going Geothermal

Hello, friends! We don’t know how it happened, but the last of the autumn leaves has fallen and winter is officially upon us (well, almost officially). The days are getting shorter, it’s snowed on more than one occasion, and fighting off the constant, gnawing chill of winter has become my number one goal. Full-body mittens help, FYI.

We are currently combating the cold at one of our latest projects. One of the biggest parts of this full-house restoration just outside of Albany, NY is the installation of a geothermal system. Geothermal systems are just what they sound like: geo (meaning earth) and thermal (meaning heat). Earth heat systems. While we all know that the best way to keep your Dr. Pepper cold at the beach is to dig a cup-holder sized hole into the sand and let Mother Nature do its thing, digging a little further, say 250 to 300 feet, is where things start to heat up. Tapping into this naturally occurring heat source can both heat AND cool your home in an energy efficient and environmentally friendly way, not to mention you could significantly lower your utility bill.

Top: This huge drill was used to make five 250 ft holes. Center: One of the five 250′ holes. They will house two polyethylene pipes joined at the bottom with a u-joint. A water-based fluid is sent down one pipe and up the other, soaking up heat as it goes. Bottom: The heat is then transferred into the home through pipes laid in this trench.

The process can be somewhat daunting. It requires a good amount of land and some pretty heavy machinery. It also tends to make quite a mess. For this project, we installed a vertical, closed-loop system 250 feet below ground; the five holes took a total of two weeks to drill. This deep hole is the source of the heat, which warms a water-based fluid that circulates through a series of buried pipes. These pipes connect to a geothermal unit within the house which pumps the heat throughout the home, warming it in the winter. In the summer, the process is reversed, and the hot air within the house is transferred to the ground. Because the Earth is a constant 50-60°, regulating a home’s temperature is possible year-round. Pretty simple logic, huh?

Top: The mess. Bottom: The machines. In the end? Totally worth it!

While it usually requires a big investment up front, the payoff can be just as hefty. You could see anywhere from a 25% to 75% drop in utility costs, meaning you could heat and cool a typical 2,000 ft² home for as little as $1 a day. $1 A DAY. You can even use the system to generate hot water. Amazing! The system requires a small amount of electricity to run, but is still recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as the most environmentally safe and cost effective heating and cooling system on the market. Installing a geothermal system is the equivalent of planting 750 trees or taking two cars off the road. You can also scratch the threat of combustion, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning because you’re eliminating gas and other fossil fuels from your home. All this, coupled with the fact that the system can last 20+ years with minimal maintenance, kinda starts to make the initial cost of installation seem like a tiny drop in the bucket, doesn’t it?

Until next time,
The Howard Hall Farm Restoration Group

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