Builder believes in the benefits of geothermal heating and cooling (video)
Savannah Builders owner Mike Gilles is unabashed when asked to provide his reasoning behind specifying geothermal for all his projects. His response: "I know it works, I know it helps reduce emissions, and I know it saves my customers money."
A nearly two-decade veteran of residential geothermal installations, Gilles has solidified a reputation as the top Oklahoma City green builder when it comes to custom homes with optimized energy efficiency and a high quality finish-out.
"With our customers, dollar value ratio is definitely important," Gilles explained. "We find it's easier to make a sell for the 'low-hanging fruit' when it comes to energy savings - good insulation, good windows and doors, and a quick-return renewable energy source like geothermal. Homeowners see their investment in an undoubtedly meaningful way when they realize how these elements translate to such low energy bills, right off the bat."
Gilles and Savannah Builders have been committed to incorporating geothermal in 100 percent of their home designs since 1993 - long before the growth of the green building movement and the recent wave of government tax incentives.
According to Gilles, energy savings is the most important aspect of the green building movement, and one that's easy for homeowners to understand.
Watch Raj Hiremath of ClimateMaster discuss the benefits of geothermal heating and cooling.
"While I'd like to say most of my customers just walk in the door already excited about geothermal as part of our building plan, that just isn't true," he said. "However, the light bulb goes on pretty quickly when we do the math. Showing folks that an investment in geothermal tacks on about $45 per month to their mortgage, and saves them up to double that much per month in energy bills, it becomes very clear…very fast. After that it becomes about doing the ‘right thing’ for the longevity of the home – whether the homeowner will eventually move or not, designing a home with geothermal means it will remain current with energy efficiency requirements, and ultimately energy savings, throughout its existence."
In addition to helping his customers understand the value of incorporating geothermal as part of a home"s HVAC design, Gilles has also been committed to ensuring Savannah Builders is knowledgeable and professionally trained in respect to designing for and incorporating geothermal technology. Savannah Builders uses ClimateMaster geothermal heatpumps in may of its homes.
"To truly be successful with geothermal, you have to make a holistic commitment to research, schooling, and ongoing professional development," Gilles said. "If a builder is seriously considering getting into geothermal, he or she needs to understand that it's much more than just installing a unit - it's about understanding how to optimize the complete system, including consideration for proper ductwork design, insulation and air infiltration. Adopting geothermal across most, or ideally all, projects is also a more strategic way to go, as 'one off's' don’t provide the ongoing learning necessary to really become an expert in the field. And making geothermal part of a standard operating procedure is honestly easier than it’s ever been, between the sophistication of the equipment and the numerous options for today’s loop field designs. Unit functionality and physical space are no longer limitations, and cost is also quite reasonable."
Read more about geothermal heating and cooling.
[Photo courtesy of Savannah Builders]