Dandelion Energy vs. ClimateMaster, Enertech & Waterfurnace

With high heating bills and a growing awareness of the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels, it’s no wonder so many homeowners are upgrading to geothermal. After all, according to the EPA, geothermal is “the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective” way to heat your home. Geothermal, or ground source heat pumps (GSHPs), harness renewable thermal energy under your lawn to heat your home in the winter and provide hyper efficient central air conditioning in the summer, all in one system. 

The technology has been around for decades and has proven especially popular in European countries like Sweden, where one in every five homes is warmed by a geothermal system. Fortunately for State-side homeowners, there are a whole slew of American companies building high quality, hyper-efficient ground source heat pumps, making the choice to upgrade to geothermal even easier. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between ClimateMaster, EnerTech, WaterFurnace, and Dandelion geothermal systems so you can make the best choice for your home and family.

The Companies

ClimateMaster has been producing efficient heating and cooling systems for over fifty years. They offer a wide range of both water-to-water and water-to-air geothermal heat pumps. EnerTech is the parent company of three geothermal heat pump brands: GeoComfort, HydronModule, and TETCO. Like ClimateMaster, EnerTech boasts a wide range of heat pumps through those three brands that can accommodate split HVAC systems and radiant flooring. WaterFurnace takes that versatility one step further by being able to work with “combination systems” that heat with radiant flooring and cool with forced air. All three companies are large heat pump manufacturers that distribute their systems to partners all over the country, and in the case of WaterFurnace, all over the world.

Originally conceived at X, the innovation lab run by Google’s parent company Alphabet, Dandelion’s goal is to make geothermal technology as affordable and accessible as possible. You’ll find that spirit of accessibility and innovation in Dandelion’s proprietary heat pumps which were designed for hassle-free heating and cooling. Dandelion Geothermal systems require forced-air ductwork in order to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Though it may lack the versatility of a ClimateMaster, EnerTech, or WaterFurnace systems, the simplicity means that the Dandelion heat pump can deliver clean, renewable hyper-efficient space conditioning along with big savings for eligible homeowners.

Heat Pumps

All geothermal systems have two unique components: underground loops that circulate a water based mixture to absorb thermal energy from the earth and heat pumps that transfer that energy to heat and cool your home. This is why you’ll sometimes hear ground source heat pump, or GSHP, used interchangeably with geothermal. What ClimateMaster, EnerTech, WaterFurnace, and Dandelion have in common is that they all produce high-quality, super-efficient geothermal heat pumps. That said, every home is different and the nuances between these different heat pumps are important to understand when choosing the right one for your family.

Water-to-Water vs Water-to-Air

The vast majority of heating systems use either radiant heat or forced air to distribute warmth throughout the house. Radiant heat works by circulating hot water through radiant flooring, baseboard radiators, or in many older homes, cast iron radiators. True to its name, forced air systems push hot air through duct work and out of vents or registers throughout the home. 

Because geothermal systems harness thermal energy from the earth through water circulating through underground loops, all geothermal systems can be divided between water-to-water and water-to-air heat pumps. As the title implies, water-to-water heat pumps transfer thermal energy to hydronic or radiant heating distribution systems. Likewise, water-to-air transfers that heat energy to push warm air through ductwork, vents or registers throughout the home. ClimateMaster, EnerTech, and WaterFurnace offer a wide array of ground source heat pumps that includes both water-to-water and water-to-air systems. Dandelion’s heat pump is solely a water-to-air heat pump. 

That being said, because geothermal doesn’t rely on combustion to warm your home, there are some major limitations in the capabilities of water-to-water heat pumps. Cast iron radiators, steam radiators, and many types of baseboard radiators in older homes require boiling water to extremely high temperatures to generate warmth. Because of this, the vast majority of water-to-water heat pumps won’t work with those types of radiators and the ones that do have to work overtime to transfer that type of heat and tend to cost significantly more to manufacture and operate.

One of the great advantages of geothermal systems is that in addition to keeping your family warm in the winter, they also provide hyper-efficient air conditioning during the summer. Systems that rely on water-to-water heat pumps miss out on this advantage entirely. Fortunately, many homes with central AC systems already installed might be able to take advantage of their existing ductwork to install a water-to-air geothermal system.

Two-Stage vs Variable Speed Heat Pumps

Vox declared that “nothing can match” the efficiency of a geothermal heating system. By harvesting renewable thermal energy from the earth, geothermal systems are able to operate at anywhere from 300-600% efficiency. That said, some geothermal heat pumps are more energy efficient than others, that’s where “speeds” or “stages” come in.

Heat pumps, like air conditioners, operate in “stages” or “speeds.” The more stages a heat pump can utilize, the more energy efficient and responsive it becomes. However, with more speeds comes a higher price tag and more variables that can potentially break down and require expensive repairs.

A single-speed, or single-stage, heat pump has two modes: on and off. That means that if you turn your thermostat up, your heat pump will operate at 100% capacity until your home reaches the right temperature. A two-stage system has two levels of intensity once it turns on: high intensity, which has the system work at around 100% capacity, and low, which keeps the system operating at around 70% capacity. By contrast, variable speed heat pumps can shift to operate at whatever level of capacity is necessary to keep you comfortable. 

ClimateMaster, EnerTech, and WaterFurnace offer a wide range of variable speed and two-stage geothermal heat pumps. Dandelion’s geothermal system is a two stage heat pump, which is vastly more efficient than a single stage unit, but significantly less expensive and only marginally less efficient than a variable speed alternative.

Installation

According to that same Vox article, you’d be hard-pressed to find a “better value” in-home heating “over the lifetime of the system.” Unlike a traditional fossil fuel furnace or boiler that spreads its cost over the lifetime of the system through high heating bills, installing geothermal represents a significant investment up-front, but $1000s in savings over the long run.

ClimateMaster, EnerTech, and WaterFurnace are heat pump manufacturers, not installers. They connect homeowners with nearby qualified installation contractors who will design a system for your home and install the heat pump and ground loops. This system allows ClimateMaster, EnerTech, and WaterFurnace to focus on what they do best: designing and manufacturing high quality, super efficient geothermal heat pumps, while leaving the installation to the pros. If you decide to go this route, it’s important to make sure your installation crew specializes in geothermal installs and is not a generalist HVAC contractor.

Since Dandelion exclusively works in ground-source, ductwork retrofits, they are able to offer better pricing and more expertise than your average installer. Dandelion uses its own proprietary software to tailor the size and number of ground loops to fit your home’s needs and takes care of the permitting, drilling and installation work in-house. By cutting out the middleman and owning the process from design to implementation, Dandelion is able to ensure the quality of every installation while delivering the most competitive pricing for geothermal heating and cooling on the market. Beyond that, Dandelion offers financing for no money down and as little as $150 a month for a new geothermal system.

Make the switch to Geothermal for as little as $0 down and $150/month.

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