Hundreds of local building owners have opted for clean energy
Mike Ault, a dairy farmer from Hanesville, wanted to be environmentally responsible, without spending a fortune. Dr. Gerry Rosenquist and local school teacher Lois Rosenquist wanted healthier air in the family home.
These South Dundas-area homeowners have different reasons for choosing geothermal heating and cooling, but they are part of a convincing trend in the region. Jimmie Thom’s crews at ATEL Air install about 20 geothermal systems each year and have been providing the clean energy alternative for 34 years, as an alternative to oil, propane, electric baseboard and conventional air conditioning.
Geothermal costs a little more up front, but saves a good deal of money over the years, and operates trouble-free for a long time. ATEL Air is a member of the Ontario Geothermal Association (OGA), whose mandate is to ensure that good news customer stories (99.9 percent of cases) receive the exposure they deserve. “Sometimes one incorrectly installed system out of 10,000 great ones gets media coverage and colours the image of a highly successful clean heating and cooling choice,” says OGA President Jim Bolger. “We’re collecting and publishing case studies about geothermal use in homes and businesses from all across the province.”
ABOUT THE OGA
The Ontario Geothermal Association (OGA) is a not-for-profit organization representing geothermal energy system designers, drillers, installers, equipment manufacturers and distributors to advance Ontario’s geothermal heating and cooling industry. Thousands of geothermal systems have been installed for decades in North America. They’re based on the principle that the temperature underground is warmer than the air above ground in the winter, and cooler during the summer. This creates an inexpensive clean energy opportunity. A geothermal heat pump helps collect and intensify the ground warmth or cooling energy, using a very small amount of electricity. It creates luxurious, healthy indoor air quality very affordably, while eliminating most of the system’s greenhouse gas footprint. Please see local area customer stories in the attached backgrounder.
Morrisburg’s First Doctor Says Geothermal is Healthier
He was the first obstetrician in the Morrisburg area, sometimes delivering babies by gaslight and getting paid with five-dollar bills with a picture of King George VI on them. Dr. Gerry Rosenquist and Lois Rosenquist moved from western Canada to Williamsburg in 1960. “King George was Queen Elizabeth’s father. She had already been Queen for 8 years,” says Gerry. “They must have stashed those bills for a long time.They didn’t trust banks in those days.”
Gerry and Lois were young and liked people, communities, and families. Lois was a school teacher and mother. She and Gerry raised five children here. Gerry liked curling and organizing the teams at the Morrisburg rink. He cared about healthy families. He founded the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic in Morrisburg, eventually attracting a dozen other doctors to the region. One of Gerry’s teams won the Ontario Medical Bonspiel (curling) in 1970.
“In 1976 we put electric baseboard heat in our house. It was good until electricity became expensive. When we built the new house in Iroquois I wanted something that would be healthy for the family. Geothermal ended up being the least expensive option and geo is healthier than oil or gas. No swings and valleys. Not a big blast of hot air or cold air. It’s more gentle. It’s better for you.”
He says having family around is healthier too. “We built the lower level apartment so the kids and grandchildren could visit, and they would have their own space. So we ended up with a 4,000 square foot house.”
Now their oldest daughter Kim is selling her house to her own daughter (which also has geothermal heating and cooling) and is buying Gerry and Lois’ place. “It’s a family affair,” says Gerry “And now we’re going to become tenants.”
The Iroquois place has a four-ton heat pump closed loop geothermal system with 3000 feet of pipe laid out in a five-foot deep trench. “It’s swampy down here. Lot’s of thermal energy,” says Gerry. “I always thought geothermal provided the best heat and was the most energy efficient. Then when we looked into it, we found that it was also the least expensive.
“It’s cheaper than gas or oil heat or electric baseboard heaters. Our electricity costs average about $400 a month and about half of that is for cooling and heating. Jimmie says oil heat would be 40 percent more and conventional air conditioning would double our cooling costs.”
He is referring to Jimmie Thom of ATEL Air in Williamsburg, who installed the system. Because it falls into the clean energy category, many people think geothermal is new, but ATEL Air has actually been installing systems for about 35 years, since 1984. His father, Arthur Thom, started an Electrical company in 1949 and now have eight crews serving the area from their shop on County Road 31 in Williamsburg.
“Geothermal is healthier for the family in the house and it’s healthier for our environment too,” says Doctor Gerry. “My kids are very environmentally conscious and I think we have to preserve natural surroundings and stop contaminating the air that we breathe. When we were making electricity from coal, that was not a good idea. Geothermal is a good idea. Geothermal and hydro don’t interfere with your health or with the environment.”
Environmentally Responsible without Costing a Fortune
He was a fearsome hockey foe in his day, but Mike Ault has spent most of his time as a gentle partner to Mother Nature; an egg, dairy and cattle farmer in the Hanesville-area. “I believe in being as environmentally responsible as possible, with out spending a fortune,” says Mike, who installed geothermal in his house about 10 years ago and says it has always worked perfectly, with minimal annual service.
The house is 934 square feet, plus a loft and a basement. When the previous electric furnace became too old, Mike asked his Friend Jimmie Thom, from ATEL Air, to install a Bard GeoTec 3 ton two-stage heat pump that was connected to six-feet-deep horizontal geothermal trenches next to the building.
“They did a good job, nice and neat. They changed some of the ductwork, too.”
“I’m glad he liked our work,” says Jimmie with a wink. “I played against Mike in hockey. He was tough as nails on the ice. Wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.”
Jimmie explains that getting the ductwork right is important to avoid hot and cold spots in the house and unnecessary noise. His company has been installing geothermal in the Eastern Ontario since 1984. They have 8 crews that work on all kinds of heating and air conditioning systems. He says they do about 20 geothermal systems each year for people who care about clean energy and want to save some money on heating and cooling. He describes a large recent geo job for Upper Canada Village, a nearby historical attraction. “They were spending about $500,000 a year on electricity, so at this point they’re raving about the money they’re saving.”
Mike estimates that summer cooling in his little house costs about $90 or $100 per month, and winter heat about $250 per month. “I have no regrets. It’s a lot less than the alternatives,” says Mike.
He also worked for a time for an excavation company and knew his way around trenching. He saved quite a bit of the upfront costs of the system by taking care of digging his own geothermal field.
For those who are not as fortunate, the up front cost can seem daunting at first glance. But the equipment pays for itself in utility savings in about 10 years and lasts much longer. Geothermal heat pumps last about 20-30 years and geothermal fields last about 50-75 years.
“Financing is available so that you can make payments roughly equal to the amount you’re saving on utilities,” says Jimmie. “So it doesn’t really have to cost you anything to upgrade to a cleaner system.” He processes fast customer approvals on his iPad through a company called Snap Financial. The interest rate is about 8 percent or 9 percent. Some people can do better through their existing financial institution. More and more conventional banks are extending financing for clean energy upgrades.
“I wanted solar panels too but the local utility didn’t have enough local line capacity,” says Mike. “People in this area are going that way. Just a few miles east of here there’s a big wind power installation. I think we have to do what we can to protect Mother Earth.”
Mike Ault, Farmer, Eastern Ontario
Dr. Gerry Rosenquist, Doctor, Eastern Ontario