Geothermal even better with new unit
By Mark Sherry
Dan Walsdorf (left) and Sean Steffes, owners of Advanced Custom Geothermal in Kiel, go over the plans for an upcoming installation.

Sean Steffes and Dan Walsdorf of Advanced Custom Geothermal in Kiel said they are excited about the new variable capacity residential unit they can now install on geothermal systems.

And can there be a better testimonial to their trust in the product than the fact the new unit was installed not just on Sean’s home but on his grandmother’s as well?

The WaterFurnace 7 Series™ provides homeowners the ultimate in comfort and performance and represents Water-Furnace’s finest products. It is the geothermal industry’s first fully launched variable capacity unit.

Dan and Sean put that in layman’s terms, saying the variable capacity unit is at 20 percent capacity when it engages and has multiple levels as it ramps up, vs. the more traditional two-stage units which are already at 70 percent capacity when they start up. Even more simplified, the new units provide the industry’s best ratings in terms of energy efficiency for both heating and cooling—vastly greater than ordinary conditioning systems and 20 percent higher than current two-stage geothermal heat pumps.

Home serves as test spot

Sean’s home served as Advanced Custom Geothermal’s test spot for the new variable unit last year. After installing one in his grandmother’s house, she commented that she could no longer hear whether or not the furnace was running. As Sean and Dan pointed out, they let customers answer that concern with a simple question: Are you comfortable? If the answer is “yes,” the very quiet and efficient system is doing its job.

WaterFurnace’s new variable unit has Aurora communicating controls which work in unison with InfiniSpeed technology. A variable capacity compressor, variable speed loop pump, and variable speed blower motor combine to offer the high level of comfort experienced. Best of all, 7 Series units use the stored energy in a person’s yard to provide savings up to 70 percent on heating, cooling and hot water.

It might be good to pause here and remind readers about what geothermal is all about—something Sean and Dan continue to do via a regular radio show in northeast Wisconsin and by other means. They said they do think public knowledge of geothermal is increasing all the time. “You hear about it almost every day from someone,” Sean said.

A geothermal system circulates a water-based solution through a buried loop system of polyethylene tubing to take advantage of the moderate and constant temperature of the earth. A single piece of equipment has the ability to heat and cool a home while providing some or all of the home’s domestic hot water needs as well. Even in northern climates such as Wisconsin, about 10 feet below the ground the temperature is consistently around 55 F. Making use of this constant is why geothermal systems can save 40 to 70 percent on monthly utility bills.

Works a lot with contractors

Advanced Custom Geothermal does much of its geothermal work for contractors, often in new home construction throughout northeast Wisconsin but also as far away as Wausau, Waterford and Germantown.

Making use of the earth’s temperature for heating dates back to prehistoric times, but it was in the 1980s that earth loop systems began to be used. Modern geothermal systems have been around long enough now that Advanced Custom Geothermal did a changeout recently of a 25-year-old WaterFurnace.

Helping to make their job easier in the past year was the addition of a directional boring machine. Just as it sounds, the equipment allows ACG employees to bore holes horizontally or at other angles underground. No longer does the company have to subcontract out directional boring, and use of the machine allows it to install loop fields in wooded lots without removing trees. The machine also now offers ACG another service which it can do for anyone needing directional hole boring done.

That is similar to the sheet metal work Advanced Custom Geothermal has done for other businesses over the years, because ACG is more than a geothermal company. As Sean said, anything a “normal” heating contractor does, Advanced Custom Geothermal also does including installation and repair of conventional gas and oil furnaces and boilers; conventional, split-system and miniduct air conditioners; and air-to-air exchangers, gas fireplaces, humidifiers, duct cleaning, and ultraviolet light air purifiers. The business also does commercial refrigeration installations and repairs, such as to walk-in coolers and other needs for restaurants, gas stations, taverns and other applications.

Specialists in geothermal

But as its name implies, geothermal continues to be important to Sean, Dan and their employees. They said they see the benefits to their customers and the environment, and they are good at what they do.

Dan was just elected to the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Geothermal Association at the annual meeting held at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake. He also is a member of the WaterFurnace Dealer Advisory Council (one of 10 members throughout the U. S.) which makes recommendations for product improvement and development.

ACG is working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a prototype geothermal installation in a home in Grand Marsh, with the goal of getting much higher efficiencies from geothermal systems. Dan also is a consultant for the UW

Mark Sherry photo

analyzing problem geothermal systems that have been previously installed and recommending the appropriate solution to tie it together with a similar earth loop being used in the Grand Marsh project.

In addition to industry accreditations and certifications which it has, ACG also has an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

“We specialize in it,” Dan said of ACG’s geothermal work. “We’ve been doing it for close to 10 years... We’re the geothermal destination. If you want a system that works, come to us.”

Sean added, “We have it in all our own homes, our family’s homes.”

That includes his grandmother, who remains comfortable and doesn’t even notice the furnace is running.