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Alphabet spinoff heats and cools the home with geothermal energy

The Alphabet spinoff Dandelion has announced a home heating and cooling system that harnesses geothermal energy
The Alphabet spinoff Dandelion has announced a home heating and cooling system that harnesses geothermal energy
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The Alphabet spinoff Dandelion has announced a home heating and cooling system that harnesses geothermal energy
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The Alphabet spinoff Dandelion has announced a home heating and cooling system that harnesses geothermal energy

A reliable and renewable energy source is right under our feet – literally – in the form of geothermal energy. After funding a study a few years back to map underground hotspots, Google's parent company, Alphabet, has now spawned Dandelion, a new startup that aims to tap into that resource. The company's signature technology is a geothermal heating and cooling system that pumps heat from the ground into the home in winter, or out of it during summer.

The roots of the Dandelion system are what the company calls ground loops. These U-shaped plastic pipes are buried a few hundred feet under the yard, and water is pumped through them to provide the heating or cooling effects. In winter, water running through the loops will absorb heat from the ground and pipe it into the home, while the system will run in the opposite direction to keep things cool during the scorching summer months. The pipes are connected to a heat pump and water heater inside the house, and users can control the indoor climate through a smart thermostat.

Dandelion says that installation is relatively painless. To put in the ground loops, the company's own "clean drilling technology" will be used to dig a few small holes in the yard, each only a few inches wide. Then a technician will install the other components inside the house, and the system should be up and running in two to three days. After that, the only regular maintenance is an air filter change every six to 12 months.

The system reportedly costs US$20,000, but Dandelion is making it available to homeowners on a monthly payment plan with no upfront costs. If the system is as efficient as the company says it is, a user should be able to make some of those repayments through the savings it cuts off the household energy bill.

Dandelion was spun out of X, Alphabet's incubator for ambitious "moonshot" ideas. After securing $2 million in seed funding, Dandelion is currently rolling out the technology to viable homes in upstate New York.

Source: Dandelion

16 comments
Jimjam
How is this different to a regular heat pump?
usugo
for that money, it is probably cheaper to install a PV or eolic system and use electric heaters in the winter and air conditioners in the summer
NicolasMarshall
A company selling the same heatpumps that have been available for at least a decade, how is that a "moonshot" startup ?
SteveO
Geothermal heat pumps have been around for a long time. I know several people with them. I'm not seeing anything new here. Do people really think that just because Google does it, it will be magically better?
Mark SC
Google should have just purchased one of the companies that has been in this business for years. Ground source or geothermal heat pumps are nothing new. They work great, are quite, and very energy efficient. But Google certainly didn't come up with any new ideas here....at least nothing described in the article.
chizzy
Earth coupled heat pumps. my dad installed these in rural Oklahoma in the 80s. very much not new technology. even the study that said you could put these everywhere is not new.
MKO
I have geothermal on my house already and love it! I also have a 5400 watt PV system. The fluid in the geothermal unit is similar to industrial strength wind shield fluid. It has an alcohol base instead of glycol. 4000 ft of poly tubing is coiled and buried 8 feet deep in the front lawn area. The natural soil was used to back fill, but I suspect if you filled the trenching part way with bentonite slurry the system would have been more efficient.
wal62
These system use the 68 degree natural earth coolness, just within 6" under your yard. Think all new homes should include this in original building. Can you imagine how cheap cooling, heating your home just happened? Unfortunately, to dig up your yard( horizontal geothermal system, or drill down(well style geothermal), can expensive. Solar is now cheaper. Yet a handy person can build this themselves, if motivated.
clay
The business model seems to be the key differentiator. It appears they are following SolarCity's footsteps, as applied to geo-therm. The glaring exception is SolarCity sells excess power to the grid. Maybe Dandelion has an MRR model with a positive ROI? I hope so, it seems $20K in npv/sunk cost is a *LOT* to recoup without the ability to sell unused/excess heat/cool. A mortgage matching service life (~30 years) seems necessary. I am a fan of geo-therm and so it is good to see efforts to make it affordable. If Alphabet has some magically advanced method or process which brings down the implementation cost, then perhaps it will help the industry...though this too seems unlikely given the $20K price tag.
Bruce H. Anderson
Jimjam, the difference is that in the winter and summer you are using a 58F liquid in the heat pump exchanger, instead of 100F air in the summer and 34F air in the winter (and below 34F you need electric booster heat). I assume the water heater is connected to gather waste heat from the heat pump, but that is not clear. But this is OLD technology, albeit quite effective and expensive. I would expect that the water in the loop will need regular treatment, unless it has something to eliminate corrosion like a water/glycol mix. Unless this "clean drilling technology" is something uber whiz-bang, what we have here is just marketing hype.