Case Studies

Geothermal Heating Case Studies: Geothermal, Solar and Insulation Project in Cortland, NY

Friday, March 6th, 2015 by Kelsey Belile


Larry and Laurie of Cortland, NY first started looking at solar back in the 70's. During that time, solar was not widely understood and the customers gave up on their interest. Solar electricity had always been a consideration for the couple, but it wasn't until last spring that they started seriously researching and looking into different options. For Larry, he had a large interest in the environmental and financial benefits. For Laurie, she was sick and tired of freezing in their "big, leaky house."  The initial thought was that they could add a large solar array and use strip heat to heat their home. With this idea, they decided to contact Halco for a free home energy audit. 


During the home energy audit the blower door test failed (a test to help determine a home's air tightness) leading us to step one, which was to seal the home with spray foam insulation in the attic as well as the basement.  Once the insulation project was complete another blower door test was run and again, it failed.  At this point, Halco employees accessed the situation and determined that step two would be to insulate the band joists. A band joist is a board that is between two floors of a home, such as a first and second floor, and runs around the perimeter of a home.  Insulating band joists can be a fairly invasive project if not done right, but in a post project interview Laurie stated, "It was nothing. Really no mess at all." Once the insulation was complete, the home passed the blower door test and we were able to move forward with these homeowners.  

The results of the energy audit determined that a combination of solar electricity and geothermal heating would be the best way to accomplish what the customers wanted and needed out of the project. First, an 8.8 kW solar electric system was installed as a roof-mounted array on the customer's barn. The system consists of 32 SolarWorld modules and is designed to generate 7,372 kWh per year. Energy production will be equivalent to 83% of the customer's current baseload usage which corresponds to a CO2 emissions savings of 8,846.4 lbs. per year! And to finish, a 5 ton vertical geothermal system was installed. Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) function by using the constant temperature of soil below the frost line to provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. Vertical systems, which require a bit more skill to install, are typically drilled between 150 to 400 ft. below grade, depending on the project and because of the depth of the system, they do not experience a significant COP (coefficient of performance) fluctuation over the heating season.

When asked about their overall experience Laurie stated, "We've never worked with a company like this before. They were just going to get it done no matter what it took." In reference to Halco owner, Hal Smith, she said, "I don't know where he gets his guys, but every single worker was respectful and worked very hard." A huge thank you goes to Larry and Laurie for allowing us to work with you and congratulations on taking a major step towards energy independence and for dramatically reducing your environmental footprint! 

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