Charming Wisconsin Farm Home
Gets Most Advanced Geothermal Upgrade
Objective: Update and improve the energy usage of a beautiful historic home by installing the most efficient geothermal heating and cooling system available.
Home Size: 3,500 Square Feet
Unit Type: 7 Series
Number of Units: 1
Loop Type: Horizontal
Alan Blum describes the drive down the quarter-mile gravel road that leads to the home he and wife Cathy are renovating as a drive back in time. “As you come upon the fieldstone homestead and see the 100-plus-year-old black walnut tree growing in the front yard, you feel as if you’ve stepped back into the Civil War era,” he said. “The ambiance is just spectacular.”
And that’s why the Blums are looking forward to completing renovations to the 3,500-square-foot home and settling in. “We’re eager to live there permanently, but also willing to take our time and do what’s necessary to ensure we end up with a home that’s comfortable to live in, energy efficient and respectful of the environment around us,” Blum noted. And so began a top-down renovation, starting with the attic and second floor, while incorporating a ground-up geothermal heating system that relies on steady temperatures just beneath the earth’s surface. It provides energy-efficient heating and cooling to the home, while preserving its historic charm.
“Today, the WaterFurnace dealer says at least 75 percent of his business is the installation of geothermal systems.”
Located in Kiel, Wis., the 1867 homestead sits on 14 acres of property. When the Blums purchased it, the house boasted its original windows, 30-inch, uninsulated stone walls and drafty doors. “All of those features were charming but also terribly inefficient when it came to keeping the house warm,” said Blum. Add this to the propane gas furnace that most likely needed to be replaced, and Blum was in the market for a new approach to heating and cooling the home.
His first inclination was to seek advice from Dan Walsdorf, part owner along with Sean Steffes, of Advanced Custom Geothermal in Kiel. Walsdorf had serviced the propane furnace in the home. Arriving at Walsdorf’s place of business, both Blums were delighted to notice the company not only advertised its geothermal capabilities, but also used a geothermal system to provide heating and cooling to its facility.
Advanced Custom Geothermal was founded in 2007, combining two companies—Walsdorf Heating and Cooling LLC and Steffes’ company, Advanced Custom Air LLC. Walsdorf’s introduction to geothermal came four years earlier when he installed his first system in his father’s house.
“The more upgrades a homeowner makes, the greater impact it will have on the heating and cooling system we design for them, often resulting in a smaller system.”
Today, the WaterFurnace dealer says at least 75 percent of his business is the installation of geothermal systems. But before he recommended geothermal to the Blums, he first suggested they employ another local firm to conduct an energy audit of the house, which would show the home’s heat loss and generate suggestions for improving its energy efficiency.
“We would sooner not put in geothermal and lose a sale if homeowners would agree to the audit and make their home tighter,” said Walsdorf. “You have to do it systematically, and that means making a home more energy responsible with insulation, better windows, etc. before considering the heating system. The more upgrades a homeowner makes, the greater impact it will have on the heating and cooling system we design for them, often resulting in a smaller system.”
A geothermal system takes advantage of free solar energy stored just below the surface of the earth. Using a series of pipes (an earth loop) buried in the ground and a geothermal or ground source heat pump, the geothermal heating and cooling system extracts heat from the earth and carries it to a home in the winter. An indoor unit compresses the heat to a higher temperature and distributes it throughout the home. In the summer, the process reverses and the system extracts heat from the home and rejects it to the earth. In both cases, the geothermal system delivers consistent temperatures and efficiencies that exceed those of conventional home comfort systems, offering homeowners savings as high as 70 percent on heating, cooling and hot water.