Solar is out and geothermal is in, according to one Florida builder.
Rob Smith, owner of E2 Homes in Maitland, Fla., is a fully insured, state licensed Certified General Contractor. He was also the first LEED accredited professional in the Central Florida-area with the LEED AP for Homes designation. But all of these accomplishments didn’t lead him to his conclusion about geothermal—a homebuyer did.
“My clients introduced me to it, and my first reaction was that it was not cost effective,” he says. “But I learned about it, and I have now implemented it in two houses.”
In fact, he now believes in geothermal so much that he’s installing it in two more homes later this year.
Geothermal systems use electricity to access the near-constant temperatures found deep in the earth by circulating fluid into the ground water and through a coil that absorbs or dissipates heat depending on the season.
E2’s recent uptick in geothermal heating and cooling system installations is not common in Florida. Air conditioners and heat pumps for pools, however, are. A builder of large custom homes, Smith says geothermal allows homeowners to run both at a higher efficiency. This technology brings the overall cost down once you account for all the variables.
Conquer Education to Understand Benefits
Heat pumps can cost about $5,000 up front, plus an additional $100 to $200 a month on the utility bill. According to the United States Department of Energy, the average cost of a geothermal heat pump system is $2,500 per ton. An average of three tons is needed to supply the typical home, so the cost is about $7,500.
Doing research and informing clients of the facts is key to E2’s business. Smith’s education has helped. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and not only received a bachelor’s degree in economics but also a master’s in environmental studies.
“That’s why when I look at some of these technologies, I look at the cost and the benefits and environmental impact,” Smith says. “I give them enough information to make informed decisions on which technology is appropriate for them.”
Geothermal versus Solar
As I was speaking with him, Smith was installing a 10kw PV system. To date, he’s only installed three solar panel systems on houses.
“It’s generally not the first thing I recommend. It’s a better use of money to make your house more energy efficient first,” he says.
E2 Homes, which was founded in 2005, builds two to four houses a year … unless you include the homes built for Habitat for Humanity. Smith also does some renovations.
While E2 does not have a standard technology package, the company factors in the client’s budget and lifestyle to make a good fit. Smith isn’t afraid to go with the flow, either.
“We’re not afraid to stray from the plans if we think we can improve the product. We are always trying to strive for what’s best for our client and the end result.”
And right now, that’s geothermal.