Local man uses geo-exchange system for new home
Clay Trevenen, 39, smiles about possibilities as he looks out at 6,400 feet of high-density plastic coils laid out in a 7-foot deep pit next to his partially-built new home in Moffat County.
The coils are part of a geo-exchange heating and cooling system – also known as geothermal – that will help the environment.
But green energy wasn’t the focus.
What makes Trevenen smile is possibly saving $300 to $500 in utility costs each year.
“That’s more what I’m thinking about,” he said.
Trevenen’s home is one of the first in the county with a geo-exchange system.
The concept is simple, if the actual process is less so.
High-density coils are buried deep enough in the ground to be past the frost point in winter, where the ground is a consistent 55 degrees year-round. The constant temperature allows a chemical solution inside the coils to collect or dump heat.
A heat pump then either moves warmth from the coils into the home to heat it, or moves heat from the home and into the coils to cool it.
“You’re just taking the heat out of the ground and putting it in your house, or you’re taking the heat out of the house and putting into the ground,” Trevenen said.
Robert Konrad, 31, co-owner of PK Geothermal out of Erie, helped install the system Wednesday.
The market has been strong enough that he and his partner, Nathan Poss, install geo-exchange systems full-time.
“We were home-builders for a long time, and then we got into alternative forms of energy,” he said. “It was interesting at first because it was new – you get to learn about something.”
The technology has come to a point that it’s an “extremely strong” option for consumers, Konrad added.
There is a higher capital cost to install a geo-exchange system versus a standard system, Konrad said, but there currently is a federal tax credit of 30 percent of a geo-exchange system’s install price.
Usage and maintenance savings also help overcome the extra upfront expenses, he said. For instance, the coils have a 200-year lifespan and are guaranteed for 50 years.
“All the maintenance is in checking the air filter, just like you would on a normal furnace,” Konrad said.
The consumer attraction is what caught Trevenen’s eye, but others said geo-exchange offers a variety of benefits, from the relatively small scale of heating single homes, to potentially solving global political issues.
Poss’ father, Dave Poss, thinks geo-exchange technology could be the key to America’s energy independence.
Dave Poss, who is the state distributor for ECONAR, a company that sells the heat pumps necessary for moving heat between a home and the underground coils, said the technology seems to have been put on the backburner because it is less tangible than other alternative energies.
“Society feels good about things it can see or touch,” Dave Poss said. “Like the sun or the wind, we can feel those things, but people disregard what’s under their feet.”
Solar and wind power work only when conditions are right. If it’s a calm night, no one can turn on his or her heater, Dave said.
“If we’re going to be energy independent, then Obama should give tax credits for people to retrofit existing homes and buildings,” he said. “Then, we could be energy independent tomorrow. The technology is there.”
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