Google Enters Geothermal Industry with Dandelion Company
There is a new player in the geothermal industry. Originally conceived at X, Alphabet’s innovation lab, Dandelion is now an independent company offering geothermal heating and cooling systems to homeowners, starting in the Northeastern U.S. The NEWS recently had the opportunity to speak with Dandelion Co-founder and CEO Kathy Hannun. She discussed what Google saw in geothermal and how they are reaching HVAC contractors.
NEWS: What did Google see in the geothermal market that they felt was worth investing in?
Hannun: Dandelion started in X, the “moonshot factory,” and their mission is “to invent and launch ‘moonshot’ technologies that we hope could someday make the world a radically better place.”
Fossil heating systems are responsible for about a third of the greenhouse gas emissions in states like New York that have high heating requirements, and homeowners are spending tens of billions on these systems each year. In addition, homeowners using fuel oil and propane have to deal with hassles, such as annual heating fuel contracts; volatile oil prices; and large, leaky tanks. Geothermal is a technology that offers a significant improvement across these dimensions: Bringing geothermal into the mainstream will dramatically decrease emissions, save homeowners a tremendous amount of money, and provide a much more convenient and comfortable heating and cooling experience in the home.
NEWS: Who is the target market for your products?
Hannun: Dandelion’s target market is single-family homeowners in the Northeast, using heating oil, propane, or electric heating for home heating. These homeowners are spending a tremendous amount on home heating and cooling today, and they stand to save tens of thousands of dollars by switching to Dandelion geothermal.
We also serve homeowners using natural gas heating, who’ve switched to geothermal to adopt a more modern, clean, and quiet heating system.
Right now, we are focused on homes with forced hot air distribution; however, we will expand our product offering to serve homes with hot water distribution in the future.
Our installer offering targets HVAC installers who want to grow their businesses. We have thousands of homeowners signed up, and we are onboarding installers to help us work through our sales backlog and take on the increasing demand for these systems going forward.
We require our installation partners to have an excellent track record of delivering high-quality work and customer service. In addition, we are interested in partnering with installers who are excited about adopting new technology to standardize and accelerate the speed of installations and share our vision of mass-market geothermal.
NEWS: Obviously Nest, another Google company, has had some success in the HVAC market. Anything you learned from them that will help Dandelion?
Hannun: One thing Nest has demonstrated is that people pay for awesome products, not for energy efficiency. For too long, heat pumps have been framed as an energy efficiency improvement, which is one reason awareness and demand has historically been so low.
Dandelion is following the path shown by Nest and Tesla by creating a desirable home geothermal product. Taking this approach has led to a tremendous amount of interest in New York and around the country.
NEWS: What new products/technology is Dandelion Energy bringing to the market?
Hannun: Dandelion develops technology to make home geothermal into a mainstream solution for home heating and cooling. Our software is designed for installers to make selling easier and to accelerate the quality and speed of installations. For example, we acquired Geo-Connections recently, the leading SaaS platform for automating geothermal system design, and we continue to build upon their existing toolset.
We have many other new products and technologies in the works.
NEWS: What geographical region are you focused on now? How will that change in the future?
Hannun: We are focused on New York state right now but plan to expand throughout the entire Northeast United States soon. Long term, we plan to expand nationally and then internationally.
NEWS: How are you reaching out to HVACR contractors?
Hannun: We are reaching out to HVACR contractors the old-fashioned way: with a phone call. And many of them find us, too. We have a page for installers to apply to work with us at www.dandelionenergy.com/installers, and we get several applications a week.
NEWS: How much do you see the geothermal industry growing in the next five years?
Hannun: There will be massive growth for the geothermal industry over the next five years. We can expect it to look similar to the home solar industry’s growth starting a decade ago.
Publication date: 5/28/2018