North Central / Regional Reports

WaterFurnace Helps Michigan Home Achieve Net-Zero Energy Usage

The WaterFurnace Envision model installed in the home supplies highly efficient heating, cooling, and hot water.

BAY CITY, Mich. - WaterFurnace International Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., a leading manufacturer of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional geothermal and water source heat pumps, has provided the geothermal heating and cooling system used in Michigan’s first net-zero energy home.

A net-zero energy home combines state-of-the-art energy-efficient technologies and practices with renewable energy equipment to ensure that the home produces as much energy as it consumes.

The home, located in Bay City, Mich. - named “Vision Zero”- is a project designed and built by the Dow Chemical Co. and Cobblestone Homes. It will serve as an educational resource for consumers until spring of 2011, with tours and seminars so people can learn more about the technologies used in a net-zero house.

The home’s WaterFurnace Envision geothermal heat pump was installed by Walton Geothermal Heating & Cooling, Mount Pleasant, Mich., and supplies the house with highly efficient heating, cooling, and hot water. The Envision’s two-speed compressor units are roughly five times more efficient than a fossil-fuel furnace in heating and more than twice as efficient as an air conditioner in cooling, saving homeowners up to 70 percent on their utility bills, said WaterFurnace.

Hot water for the home is one example of how the energy-efficient technologies in the home work together. The Envision unit works with the home’s solar thermal tank and electric hot water tank to provide hot water for the home. With a desuperheater, the Envision captures the unwanted heat from the home and uses it to preheat water in a storage tank. The electric hot water tank serves as the primary holding tank so the geothermal and solar tanks are not competing with one another, conserving more energy for the home.

An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) has been installed to control moisture levels and ventilation rates through one central thermostat. Walton also installed the geothermal loop to support the system - a six pipe, horizontal loop application where the pipes are buried in horizontal trenches rather than vertically drilled holes.

Melissa Wahl, co-owner of Cobblestone Homes, said they decided to use geothermal to heat and cool the home because in addition to consumer interest and energy efficiency, there are incentives for installing a geothermal system, such as the 30 percent tax credit homeowners can receive on the installation of a geothermal system.

“In most cases people learn about geothermal through literature, video, or on television,” said Wahl. “But many people don’t have the opportunity to go look at how it’s done and talk to someone face-to-face. This project lends itself to hands-on education.”

“There are a lot of people who really don’t understand geothermal. What’s nice about this house is that it’s there for you to see in person. You’re hearing about it, you’re feeling it, and you’re seeing it,” said Mike Walton, applications engineer for Walton Geothermal Heating & Cooling.

With the geothermal system, the home is designed for noticeable heating and cooling cost savings - less than $250 a year to heat the home and $14 a year for cooling, said WaterFurnace. The home is expected to save $3,507 in energy costs and prevent 44,855 pounds of CO2 emissions per year.

For more information on the Vision Zero home, visit To learn more about the geothermal heating and cooling system, visit

Publication date: 09/06/2010

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