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Green Building, Katonah

Eva and Joseph Kelly’s Geothermal Heating and Cooling System


Eva and Joseph Kelly, Katonah, NY, have installed a geothermal heating system into their existing home. What motivated them? How did they get it done? What have been the cost savings?

Eva and Joseph Kelly of Katonah, NY installed a geothermal heating system in their home “because it seemed like the right thing to do.” With their European heritages (Eva’s family is Finnish and Joseph’s is (how’d you guess?) Irish), they say that resource conservation is simply part of their mentality. “I think maybe Europeans are more environmentally conscious. In Finland geothermal heating systems for homes have been common since the 70’s. And they’ve always used re-usable shopping bags. It’s nothing new.”

When the Kelly’s decided to sell their former home in the village of Katonah, it was in part because they were getting more environmentally conscious and starting to think about self-sufficiency measures. That home was really inefficient, poorly insulated, and the oil costs were ‘outrageous’. The home they now live in was more efficient and has room for gardening. They are even hoping to get a few chickens for eggs and are looking into solar and wind options for electricity. We’ll keep you posted!

The installation of the geothermal system began a year ago. The idea was to drill three 400′ deep wells, and then install a super-efficient geothermal heat pump–which draws heat from the ground during the winter and from the indoor air during the summer–for heating and cooling their home. “The best part is that these systems require virtually zero maintenance and last a long time. The oil furnace was on its last legs, so we had to spend money on a heating system anyway.” Then they encountered a few snags. The first snag in their plans was that the electricity to the house wasn’t sufficient, so they had to install another power line and they had to pay for this, adding to the overall cost.

Next, they realized that their house insulation wasn’t effective after they had already re-roofed their house. Their roofing contractor never mentioned that integral to an efficient heating system is having excellent insulation. They will now have to insulate the roof on the underside and install a new, slightly lower ceiling in the areas of the house where the roof has no attic or second floor.

From Katonah Green

Eva cautions others who are considering similar projects to “do research. Lots of it. Compare contractors. Get one that knows how to do this sort of installation and has installed alternative energy systems in an existing home. It’s completely different than building this for a new home.” She recommends that people start by visiting the Department of Energy’s Geothermal information site.

They found a contractor well educated in geothermal systems, Interior Environments , who they are very happy with. He cautioned them that the expense of retrofitting an existing home can be huge. The geothermal heating system utilized the existing air ducts in the house, which he insulated.

They love their ‘green’ architect, Tapani Talo of Super Studio Architects in White Plains, NY. He advised them to install the geothermal system and will continue working with them to further reduce their energy needs. To maximize their savings on heating and cooling energy consumption, he recommended more efficient windows, insulating the roof, and an on-demand tankless propane hot water heating system (RINNAI) to replace their oil hot water tank.

The cost savings? Eva says it’s a work in progress. The house still needs to be properly insulated, which is their next project, in order to fully realize the geothermal system’s potential.

Also, when you compare the costs, you have to take into account that they did not have air conditioning prior to this summer, so that is an added feature that raises their electrical costs for running the geothermal system in the summer. Another factor in evaluating the cost savings is that the price of electricity has gone up slightly (NYSEG says the fixed rate has gone up about 1 cent per kilowatt hour since last year), and the price of oil has gone up approximately 21% since 2006.

Notes: In September, 2007, Geothermal system installed. Central cooling installed. Heat and cooling now run on Geothermal system with electrical pull for pump. In May 2008, Rinnai On-Demand Hot Water system intalled. Gas cook-stove installed. No more oil used.

The Numbers
September, 2006 – September, 2007:
$605/month $7,260/year : oil-heated hot water and oil heat for the house, household electric

September, 2007 – May 2008:
$468/month $5,616/year : oil-heated hot water, household electric

May 2008 – September, 2008:
$416/month $4,992/year : Propane, household electric

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About Heather Flournoy

I am a writer, social media connoisseur, environmentalist and professional marketer. My personal blog is KatonahGreen.com and my professional website is ReallySocialStrategies.com. I love people's stories, and a passionate cultivator of connections, both for myself and helping others to connect. Tell me who you are, what your story is, and I'll tell you who you should talk to. In my own view, I know some of the most interesting, colorful and profound people in the world. You know who you are. Besides all the above, I am proud to say I am a working class single mother who raised a beautiful daughter. I connect deeply with animals, especially horses. I love music, coffee shops, farmer's markets, growing my own food, sustainable agriculture, broad thinkers, the healing arts, and dive diners.

Discussion

One thought on “Eva and Joseph Kelly’s Geothermal Heating and Cooling System

  1. Heather,’Like your article, with good mix of personal stats and hints of where to get info for others!

    Posted by Mom | August 3, 2010, 8:18 am

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