NEW MILFORD — In 2002, Mike Sumple built a lovely, 3,450-square-foot home with nine rooms and three and a half baths in New Milford. The house is a contemporary post and beam cedar home that sits back 700 feet from Second Hill Road on four acres of wooded land.
Nice, you might say, but there are lots of expansive, well-designed homes in Litchfield County. Well, what is different about Sumple’s home in that it uses geothermal energy to heat and cool the interior of the home, and now solar to provide electricity.
“I wanted an energy efficient home,” Sumple said. “The home has been rated three times as a well built energy efficient home by CL&P and then Eversource.”
The heat from below the surface of the land was tapped into by drilling 100-foot-deep, three-inch-diameter holes into the ground. Copper tubing was installed into these holes and connected to the heat pump, which creates the hot refrigerant gas to heat the home in winter. In summer months, the hot gases are reversed to a liquid to cool the home. The sequence of operation of refrigerant is copper earth loops to the heat pump to the air handler. The earth temperature of the refrigerant changes it from a gas in winter and to a liquid in the summer.
The three-story home features cathedral ceilings, an open floor plan, and a walkout basement with sunroom. The steady heat delivered by the ground-source heat pump and the location of the high-velocity air outlets in the ceiling, walls, and floors, noted Sumple, is designed to deliver comfort to all three levels of the home. The house is located on a high elevation of Connecticut, where the temperature sometimes dips near zero. With the thermostat set at 68 degrees, the homeowner saves energy and there are no cold spots.
“Instead of burning fossil fuels to make heat, we simply use a ground-source heat pump to transfer heat that already exists in the ground into the home,” Sumple explained. “We buried copper ground loops and filled them with refrigerant. The ground-source heat pump, along with the copper loops, transfers the heat from the ground into the home. In the summer, this process is reversed, and the heat is moved from the home into the ground, which is cooler than the outside ambient temperature. Some of this heat is used to generate free domestic hot water during the air conditioning season.”
The geothermal process eliminates the need for a chimney since there is no combustion taking place. Also, there is no production of carbon monoxide gases in the home. The annual savings for heating and cooling are in the range of 40 to 60 percent, saving considerable money for the homeowner. Talk about leaving no carbon footprints on the land and in the air.
Sumple has upped his personal environmental ante. He recently installed a solar system by Pure Point Energy. “I had been looking at solar panels for a few years. Pure Point Energy represents Sun Power out of California. They have the highest efficiency panel and came out with a 400-watt panel that was installed. I wanted to minimize the number of panels to get the kilowatt output that I was looking for. The system was installed very smoothly with no issues.”
PurePoint Energy is based in Norwalk and over the past 13 years it has undertaken residential, commercial and agricultural solar projects throughout Connecticut, as well as New York, Kansas, Texas, Nevada, Illinois, Florida, Georgia and Haiti.
“Homeowner Mike Sumple had looked into solar over the years and wanted an efficient solar system that would support his energy needs including his geothermal system,” explained Mike Dowling, Pure Point Energy Business Development Manager. “We first consulted three years ago and provided a turnkey project that included design, engineering, permitting, installation, inspections and final commissioning.”
Dowling’s company used multiple roof areas, including a detached barn/garage, in the project. The company installed 34 SunPower A Series 400-Watt panels with micro inverters. Dowling claims SunPower provides the “highest efficiency panels available.”
Dowling concurred with Sumple that the installation went smoothly. “Because the panels were being placed on multiple roofs and on a detached barn it was required that system was engineered to feed power back to main electric panel in house.” Six workers, including Dowling and Project Manager Natalie Castro, worked on the installation. It took six months from consultation to final commissioning for the project and system energizing. The project was eligible for a Connecticut Green Bank Rebate and a 26 percent Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit. The home was again rated as energy efficient by Eversource Home Energy Solutions because of its solar component.
“I’m very pleased with the result,” said Sumple. “My August electric bill went from $230 down to $27 dollars. I'm estimating that I’ll save about $2,000 a year on electricity costs. This should increase as energy costs are going up annually.”
At least for New Milford’s Mike Sumple, the future in home heating, cooling and electricity is now.