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Growing number hoping for long-term payoff of high-buck system

Cottage Grove resident Jeff Krumrie doesn't consider himself an environmentalist, and he hates the term "green."

"I'm so sick of it because it's like a religion now," he said.

Yet, he uses an environmentally safe lawn service, has a water-saving, dual-flush toilet attachment and last month he was in the process of having a geothermal heating and cooling system installed at his Indian Boulevard home.

"I try to conserve wherever I can because ultimately we're the ones who are going to fix these things," he said.

He's one of a growing number of people installing geothermal systems to save energy, and money on utility bills. Andy Ryan, a salesman for Genz-Ryan Plumbing and Heating said the company has already doubled its sales of geothermal systems from last year, and they could sell more as the year progresses.

The high up-front cost of installing a geothermal system -- around $26,000 -- concerned Krumrie, but a tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, plus various rebates, plus the long-term energy cost savings convinced him that the system made sense. He figured it would pay for itself in 13 years.

"I really don't see electrical or heating costs coming down anytime soon, in fact I'm sure they're going to go the other way," he said.

Geothermal heating and cooling uses the constant temperature of the earth by circulating a carrier fluid through buried pipes.

"Geothermal is taking that heat and capturing it and putting it into the ground, and that heat stays there, and when the winter comes, it reverses that process," said Timothy Doherty, business account executive for the Dakota Electric Association. "There's nothing particularly exotic about it."

In Krumrie's system, a fan blows air over the pipes and through the home's ducts to heat or cool the home.

To install a geothermal system, workers horizontally bore under the ground or vertically drill into the ground, typically through a 10-by-10 foot hole in the yard, Ryan said.

The systems typically take five to seven days to install, Ryan said.

Ryan said once the federal tax credit was announced -- which can shave thousands of dollars off the cost of the system -- interest in geothermal systems increased dramatically.

Doherty said most residential geothermal systems pay for themselves in less than 10 years.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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