About nine months ago, Kirk Heinze interviewed two entrepreneurs and business partners, one of whom was honored as “Innovator of the Year” at the 2016 Michigan Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards ceremony. During that interview, he learned about their Well-Connect heating/cooling system, and, after a good deal of research, he purchased it for his home.
The system, which uses his well water, has virtually eliminated his reliance on fossil fuel and has cut his heating and cooling costs considerably. It will pay for itself in 4-5 years. Needless to add, he is one happy camper—so pleased, in fact, that he thought it appropriate and timely to have Dennis and Tim Schultz back on Greening of the Great Lakes.
“Our company, Terra Caloric, was founded with one simple belief in mind—rural homeowners shouldn’t have to pay substantially more than everyone else to heat and cool their homes,” Dennis explains.
In the 1990’s, the company expanded its construction business “and started working on a commercial geothermal system. We put it in a couple homes, but the cost was $25,000 to $30,000,” adds Schultz. “And we knew that the biggest demand and need for affordable geothermal was for the lower income folks in the countryside who had wells.”
The pathway to meeting that demand in a much more affordable way led eventually to Well-Connect.
The development of the Well-Connect system “is all about energy efficiency,” says Tim, Dennis’ son. “A Well-Connect is 450 percent efficient versus the cost for propane or fuel oil that many rural folks are burning who maybe have an 80 percent efficient furnace. So something that’s five times more efficient is going to lead to lower energy costs.
“When you look at the cost of the system plus the operating cost to heat, it’s often less than what someone spends each year just on their propane bill.”
“Basically we’re a heat pump,” says Dennis. “The big news today is air-to-air heat pumps where effectively we pump energy out of the air and put it into the home. But the air temperature varies across the year. And in fact when we need the heat the most, there’s the least amount of energy in the air because it can be zero degrees outside.
“The Well-Connect takes that [air-to-air] principle and applies it to well water, which is 24 hours a day 365 days a year 49 to 52 degrees depending on latitude. So we’re pumping the energy out of the water and putting it into your home. And in the summer we just go backwards and pump the energy out of the house and into the water. It’s dispersed back into the soil. So within a matter of minutes that water that was below your home is heading back home. Gravity has a funny way of taking it down.”
Compared to other systems, adds Tim, “ours is using one fifth the water. That makes almost every well a candidate for this. It also makes getting rid of the water and putting it back in the earth very easy.”
Tim contends the Well-Connect is “the best of both worlds. You still have your current system for the coldest days, but 80 percent of the time that system is under-utilized whereas the Well-Connect is being used at almost 100 percent all the time.
“If you look at air-forced heat pumps that are on par with ours in the upfront costs, ours is twice as efficient. And compared to geothermal systems that are on par with our efficiency, ours is about 70 percent less expensive. That’s where the economics are really beautiful with our system. And it brings a lot of wells into play.”
A system logger helps users track their energy use and savings, too, “in real time and shows exactly what you’re saving today. And the system runs quietly.
“And people ask ‘what do you do with well?’ We don’t touch the well; this is all inside the house.”
Greening of the Great Lakes airs inside MSU Today Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.