Sacramento is an ideal place for geothermal energy, even though you may not hear about it much. The fact that the temperature of heat absorbed into the ground stays consistent throughout the year around 68 degrees creates excellent conditions. Geothermal energy works with the ground similar to how solar panels absorb the sun’s energy.
There are industrial businesses that use this form of clean renewable energy because of its huge energy cost savings. On a consumer level, however, it doesn’t get talked about much partly because there aren’t that many companies offering it in Sacramento. Geremia Pools, though, stands out as the lone company in town offering an innovative idea that recycles energy from the ground and swimming pools to heat and cool residential homes. The company is based here in Sacramento near Power Inn and 14th Avenue. Geremia is a family business that’s been around for nearly a century, although it has only been in the geothermal energy business for the past three years.
Geremia Pools was originally founded by Frank Geremia as a concrete company in 1922. After his son Gene and brothers Bob, Tony and Frank took over in the late forties, the business began to install swimming pools. The torch shifted to third generation owner Mike Geremia in 2000. Mike had run the commercial pool construction and service departments. He earned his civil engineering degree in 1976 from Sac State, who he says provided an excellent program. At that time the idea of geothermal energy marinated in his mind and over the years he gradually formulated the ideas that led to GeoSmart Technology.
Geothermal energy uses the earth to generate and store energy. It’s been used for centuries as a natural heating method. It typically involves drilling wells and installing pipes that circulate water through the ground, although GeoSmart does not use wells. Water is a useful vehicle that can transfer heat, which is absorbed into the ground. The key to geothermal energy’s efficiency is that it’s easier to transfer heat through water than through the air. Typical heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems transfer heat through the air, which requires more energy.
Although Geremia’s heating and cooling system relies on the grid to provide power to its heat pump, the energy circulates and recycles through water pipes to cool or heat the home. Some people use the system to transfer heat from the home to the pool, but it’s mainly designed to replace HVAC systems with cost saving solutions for the home. The heat pump is designed by Water Furnace and is the core component that drives the system. Since the system does not have a lot of moving mechanical parts, it is very quiet compared to the common HVAC system.
Geremia introduced GeoSmart Technology during the economic downturn. Since then the company has so far installed geothermal systems in nine homes with a few more on the way. Mike expects more business to come from the PACE (Property Access Clean Energy) financing program through Ygreen. Geremia targets early adopters who think in terms of long term energy cost savings. The business will also be helped by Title 24, a piece of legislation that promotes energy efficiency, and a 30 percent tax credit available for qualified homeowners who want to install the GeoSmart system.
The average cost of the geothermal solution is about $300 per month until financing is repaid and varies depending on how it’s financed. Mike says that the business attracts a mix of high and middle income homeowners. The time frame for the return on investment ranges from 4 to 7 years, depending on how the system is used. Ultimately, if the system is integrated with solar, it can produce net zero energy bills. For people who want a solar-geothermal hybrid energy system, Geremia partners with Sierra Pacific, which installs solar panels and offers home weatherizing.
Heating and cooling usually accounts for 60 percent of energy consumption, but Geremia’s geothermal system can cut energy consumption by 30 percent, which can potentially chop energy bills in half. GeoSmart Technology requires a swimming pool and can be installed in both new homes or existing homes. One of its greatest advantages is that it can be used as a remodeling strategy to substantially increase a home’s value.
Mike is passionate about developing clean energy solutions that also generate cost savings. He is currently awaiting approval for his patent pending product called an Air Cycle, which is a whole-house fan. What makes the fan unique is that instead of being installed in the attic, it sits in a sliding glass door, taking up a width of only eight inches. The fan is designed to cut costs on cooling by 20 percent and does not require an expensive installation. He envisions the product being on the market in about a year after he finds a manufacturer. I will be following up with Mike in the near future to discuss renewable energy for a SacTV.com video interview.