Geothermal energy tends to be misunderstood in the builder community, so we’re helping to cut the confusion by showcasing best practices to adopt technology as standard.
Part One of this geothermal series focuses on the process, appeal points and legislation impacting the geothermal industry. Now, Part Two aims to build off of that base-level knowledge. We focus on how to integrate geothermal with a connected HVAC system and look into some major ways a community-scale geothermal system could benefit your developments.
Experts at a geothermal community in Georgia, Serenbe, encourage the renewable technology. “If you get everything right, the questions about geothermal just go away. We’ve compared costs of homes with geothermal and traditional systems, and the traditional buyers always end up wanting geothermal for the benefits,” says Steve Hurwitz at the Bosch Experience Center in Serenbe.
HVAC Integration: Traditional vs. Community Building
Preparing a home for geothermal infrastructure, integrating it with smart HVAC systems and balancing costs may seem like a massive undertaking for builders, but the process is easier than you may think.
A geothermal system is comprised of individual loops that run underground. These loops can be open or closed and under dirt or water. It all depends on the location and terrain you are building on. We explore this concept in Part One.
After determining which type of loop best fits your client’s needs, an installer and driller will design and install the loop infrastructure. Typically, the installer will integrate the geothermal system with the home’s HVAC control system. The final step for a traditional builder is testing and coupling the home’s system to efficiently work with geothermal.
In larger communities, such as Serenbe, the process is a little different. In this model, developers work directly with geothermal manufacturers to absorb some upfront equipment costs. Serenbe has struck a strategic partnership with Bosch and Orca, which provide financial support.
“These strategic partnerships help a developer install a massive geothermal system without spending too much on a large-scale system,” says Hurwitz.
Entering a partnership with two major industry players has allowed Serenbe developers to cut initial costs for builders looking to market geothermal and is something that other multifamily developers should consider when looking to roll-out tech in a large community.
3 Major Geothermal Benefits in Multifamily Living
While geothermal isn’t mandated at Serenbe, it is highly recommended for its range of benefits—energy efficiency, money savings and silent operation.
First of all, according to the EPA, homeowners can save between 30 to 70 percent on heating and 20 to 50 percent on cooling costs when using geothermal heat pumps compared to conventional systems.
Furthermore, traditional air-to-air heating and cooling systems, which are typically used in larger communities, generate a lot of noise. Geothermal is used to cut down on noise while also being sustainable.
“They save money month one. It’s dead quiet, because you don’t hear those compressors running, and the lifecycle of the equipment is greater than traditional systems,” says Hurwitz.
The serene lack of noise pollution is something that builders may not often consider but would be immediately noticed by your clients.
In addition to the silent operation, the ability to market lower monthly costs can be a great selling point for skeptical homebuyers. Geothermal systems save homebuyers roughly $400 to $1,500 annually, depending on the size of the system and the home’s energy needs.
The other major message for multifamily developers is the need for improved education regarding the technology, because one person out of sync can lead to lost time and sacrificed capital.
“In a community like this, where you are building 15 to 20 homes, and you have a real estate team that’s selling those homes for you and with you, everyone needs to be in lockstep,” says Hurwitz.
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