The Dandelion Energy team installs a geothermal system in a home in New York.(c) 2022 - Credit: Courtesy of Dandelion Energy
Reinvention. That may seem like an obtuse, dramatic, or exaggerated term, but it is exactly what the housing industry needs to meet zero carbon goals in the next couple decades. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, heating water adds up to about 18% of a home’s energy use, and heating the air is the biggest expense in most homes, at up to 50% of energy bills in colder climates.
On the other hand, cooling a home accounts for nearly 6% of all the electricity produced in the US, and costs homeowners more than $29 billion every year. So combined, heating and cooling homes produces 441 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. The country has made massive commitments to changing those numbers, but conventional systems will not produce what is needed to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
So, manufacturers, designers and industry leaders are breaking through with technologies and ideas that are producing impressive results. One of those examples is Dandelion Energy, as it has identified and is realizing the opportunity for the stable, affordable, and reliable sustainability properties of geothermal heat pumps. Its unique proposition is leveraging the scale of its major investor, Lennar, while also offering financing to customers.
“Heating is really the biggest source of carbon emissions,” said Michael Sachse, the CEO of Dandelion Energy. “AC is electrified, but heating depends on natural gas, sometimes propane and other fuels. It’s a big problem that hasn’t really been solved.” Sachse estimates that 700,000 homes in the US use geothermal for heating and cooling, but it has been a very locally-driven and accidental development that calls on multiple stakeholders to design a system.
This gives Dandelion the opportunity to make it more broadly available with a one-stop solution by applying both data and software to the issue with WiFi-enabled monitoring. While the efficiency and the technology are appealing to homeowners, Sachse realizes that the economics must also make sense, which is why he brought financing in as part of the solution.
“Anytime you invest in something that lowers energy consumption, you spend more up front and then realize that benefit over time, making it a perfect product to finance,” he said. “We have been working on hardware solutions to bring costs down and make solutions more efficient, more comfortable, and easier to install. For instance, we’re examining how much ground loop to put in, which can be the biggest cost.”
The company currently operates in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, where more than three million homes operate on propane or pellet heat and were never connected to the gas grid. In that region, the typical single-pump system for a 2,000-square-foot home would cost around $40,000. But that’s just the sticker price. There are huge savings to be realized.
First, there are the incentives from state and local governments, which layer on to the long-term energy savings. Sachse says that incentives and rebates could lower the cost nearly in half to $21,000. With exorbitant costs of heating and cooling, Dandelion’s solutions are attractive because they can help homeowners save up to 80% on heating and 30% on cooling bills, while helping reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%. Not only does the homeowner benefit, so does the supply chain.
With the recently introduced Inflation Reduction Act, the homeowner and the third-party installer both receive a 30% tax credit for 10 years. Plus, the Act also offers a domestic manufacturer rebate for an additional 10%, so the third party could get up to a 40% credit. In the spirit of reimagining the process, Sachse says that Dandelion Energy wants to create a leasing model to lower upfront costs for homeowners who may not benefit from tax credits.
Through a lease program, the company would own the ground loop in partnership with a capital group, which the homeowner could lease with an opportunity to buy. David Maruna, vice president of new construction at Pearl Certification, a home standardization program for higher performance, has been working with Dandelion and has certified its installations. “Dandelion does so much in the home, it can also have an outsized impact in the real estate transaction, which is a boon for the consumer,” he said. Continue Reading..