Hi-tech harness for ge-old energy source

In very basic terms we’ve got two natural sources of heat and they’ve been around for a while. The sun is the obvious one and the earth’s core is the other.

Other ways of getting warm are likely to involve burning something, rubbing something, or using electricity.

Electricity is must for most of us due to all the communications and entertainment gadgets we rely on, but for heating and cooling a house, folks are drawn to a technology that’s “green” and effective, but not new.

It’s geothermal energy and it’s being harnessed in a large-scale application at the Woodland Creek housing development in the area near Church and Rhodenite Roads. Part of the appeal with these new homes is the availability of a feature homeowners can feel comfortable with in more ways than one.

Adding to the literally ‘cutting edge’ aspect of the geo-exchange home comfort component at Woodland Creek, the set up has been aided by a breakthrough drilling process invented in B.C. by Sonic Drilling Ltd. and gaining worldwide acceptance.

With branches in locations including Vancouver, Kelowna and Seattle, an outfit called GeoTility is handling the heating/cooling installation.

The following introduction to the geothermal concept is borrowed from www.geotility.ca

“At the heart of a geothermal system are one or more ground source heat pumps, which operate in a manner similar to a common refrigerator. Unlike conventional heating systems that burn fossil fuels or use electricity to create heat, heat pumps simply move heat from one place to another.

“The ground and lakes around us represent a vast reservoir of renewable thermal energy stored from the sun. This geothermal energy is estimated to exceed all other energy sources combined by more than two thousand times.”

GeoTility spokesperson Jim Leask responded via email to the following questions from the Sooke News Mirror on the geothermal topic.

SNM:

It seems obvious that people will like the sustainability and functionality of something like this. But how much of difference is there in terms of cost? And supposing the cost is greater, how long might it take for future savings to make up for the investment?

J.L.

Depending on an owner’s use, the Geo System will save them between 40 and 60 per cent on their heating and hot water bill. It is generally an eight to 12-year pay back. This is based on today’s cost of energy, this pay back time will shorten as energy costs rise.

 

SNM:

What does the future look like for this kind of system in terms of maintenance and lifespan?

 

J.L.

Geo Ground loops have been in use in areas of Europe for over 100 years. GeoTility has ground loops we installed 27 years ago and we have never had one fail. The heat pump is very similar to a regular furnace, with yearly maintainance it should last for 25 years plus.

 

SNM:

Having set the local precedent with the work at Woodland Creek, are you hearing of much interest from other developers?

 

J.L.

We have generated a lot of interest from local developers.

The Woodland Creek development touts  itself as the first neighbourhood in Sooke to offer geo-exchange tenchnology at an affordable price.

“The drilling program  for this phase of Woodland Creek required three holes at 115’ each on each individual lot to service the geo-exchange system for each individual home,” informed Blair Robertson of the developer, Totangi Properties.

Robertson was asked about the alternative systems and how they may enhance the selling process.

“The geo-exchange heating, cooling and hot water and the high energuide rating (which translates into high energy efficiency) have been key features in the attraction to the new Woodland Creek homes,” he said.

“People share concerns about the environment and annual costs of homeownership. Geo-exchange allows people to conserve energy, which results in a cost savings and a smaller environmental footprint.”

The system has an electric heat backup. There are also gas fireplaces in all homes.