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Ground provides energy

Staff writer

Dirt-cheap? Probably not. But when it comes to saving money with home energy systems, geothermal is an option for those who like dirt, and cheap, to consider.

“A geothermal system harnesses free energy stored in the earth to provide heating and cooling,” Merle Flaming, owner of Flaming’s Inc. in Marion, said. “Basically we are heating and cooling homes with dirt.”

Flaming said the concept of heating and cooling homes and businesses with natural resources is not new, but as propane and gas prices continue to rise, and more and more home owners have real concerns about using fossil fuels, using ground source energy to save money becomes very appealing.

“There is a lot of ways we use or waste energy, from unplugged phone chargers to television remotes,” Flaming said. “But when we can save someone one or two thousand dollars in just one year by switching them from a propane system to geothermal, it gets their attention.”

Flaming recently built a new home on the western edge of Marion County, along Highway 56, just west of the K-15 junction. Approximately 2,000 square yards of the home is completly heated and cooled with a geothermal system.

“We love it,” he said. “It is always very comfortable.”

Flaming’s Inc. employs 11 workers; four work on geothermal systems. In the past four years, the local company installed 58 geothermal units in Marion County and surrounding counties. Eight more geothermal jobs in process all qualify for clean energy tax credits from the government.

“There is a 30 percent tax credit available to owners until 2016,” Flaming said. “But even without that benefit, there is still a huge gain in savings to just make the switch from fossil fuels to geothermal use.”

Flaming installed a split system at his own home, using a horizontal loop to capture stored solar energy from the ground. A unit sits in the basement and a network of pipe is buried six feet under the surface of the earth in the yard. Air-to-air systems circulate warmth or coolness, depending on the season or need, throughout the home.

Geothermal also works with a radiant heating or cooling option as water circulates through pipes in the floor to moderate the home temperature environment.

“Around here the ground temperature is around 55 degrees,” Flaming said. “We use a heat exchanger to harvest the stored solar energy in the ground and bring it back into the home or business.”

Geothermal systems utilize one of four different kinds of loop systems to bring in needed energy. A customer can choose the vertical loop, horizontal loop, pond loop, or open loop, whichever fits best within landscape and home parameters.

“We haven’t found a situation yet where it doesn’t work,” Flaming said. “Inside it takes about the same space as a conventional system, but outside it is all underground.”

Flaming said the main benefit of a geothermal system is the savings over total propane or electrical use. But there are other advantages as well.

“It’s very safe, no combustionable products involved,” he said. “It is also very quiet and very clean.”

Flaming said the initial cost of installing a geothermal system in a home or business might be greater than that of a conventional system, but the current tax credit created an equal equation.

“For someone looking at needing a new system of any kind anyway, it is a very good option,” he said. “The long-term savings and the whole green energy concept are what makes this very attractive.”

Flaming and several of his employees are certified with the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, which provides training and information about geothermal installations.

More information about geothermal systems can be found at http://www.flamingsinc.com.

Last modified Feb. 23, 2012

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