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Google parent Alphabet turns ‘moonshot’ into business with promise of cheaper geothermal heating and cooling for homes

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The new firm spun off from Google parent Alphabet was born in the company’s “X” division for experimental “moonshots,” but it actually represents the opposite of a moonshot.

The new firm Dandelion looks not toward the sky, but deep into the earth, to warm homes in the winter and cool them in the summer.

“Home geothermal systems can offer lower and steadier monthly energy costs because they use the energy in the ground under your yard,” Dandelion CEO Kathy Hannun wrote in a July 6 blog post.

Here’s how Dandelion’s $20,000 system works, according to Hannun: in winter, water circulates through plastic pipes running several hundred feet beneath a yard, absorbing heat, which is carried up into the home, where a “geothermal heat pump” creates warm air. In summer, the pump pulls warm air from the home and pushes the heat down below the Earth’s surface.

Putting in the pipes has typically required large drills that leave a big mess, and the job usually takes three or four days, Hannun wrote. But an effective system requires much less work and disruption, she wrote.

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“After months of testing, we hit upon a design for a fast, slender drill that hit our objectives. It could drill just one or two deep holes just a few inches wide, and compared to typical installation rigs, it produced less waste and took up much less space as it operated,” she wrote.

“It left a typical suburban backyard relatively undisturbed, so we could minimize landscaping costs for homeowners.”

The pipes can be installed in less than a day, Hannun wrote.

The entire installation takes two or three days, according to Dandelion.  Interested homeowners in the areas where the system is offered — 11 New York counties, so far — can get an assessment from the company outlining expected energy-cost savings.

Dandelion announced July 6 that it had raised $2 million in seed funding “to kick-off its sales and operations.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal heat-pump systems can pay for themselves in two to 10 years through lower utility bills, depending on “factors such as climate, soil conditions, the system features you choose, and available financing and incentives.”

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The agency said that because subsurface temperatures are fairly consistent across the U.S., the systems can be installed almost anywhere.

Photo: Google’s logo near the Googleplex on Charleston Road in Mountain View in 2015.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Tags: Alphabet, cooling, Dandelion, Geothermal, geothermal heating, Google, heating, Kathy Hannun

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