Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Go Geothermal: The green way to stay comfortable

When Bruce Sanguinetti met up with his buddy Ric Rowlatt and Ric’s father on New Year’s Eve, 2009, he had no intention of starting a new business. As the evening progressed, however, Sanguinetti’s interest was piqued. Ric’s father had been running a geothermal heat pump business in Montana for 28 years. Their idea was to start a new business on the West Coast in the Mammoth Lakes, Reno and Tahoe areas, and right here in the Sierra foothills.

“Geothermal heat pumps are one of the best inventions of the last century, and the unfortunate thing is that so few people know about them,” said Sanguinetti, president of Sierra Eco Systems Inc. “Geothermal pumps are your traditional furnace, air-conditioning unit and water heater all in one and eliminate those bills. How could I not get involved?”

Sanguinetti, who has a degree in electrical engineering and more than 30 years of experience in business administration, and Rowlatt, who has a degree in construction engineering technology as well as an MBA, joined together in spring 2010 to create Sierra Eco Systems Inc. Together, they have more than 50 years of experience in the field, and, unlike most companies, installing geothermal systems is all they do. Sanguinetti says this is just one of many ways Sierra Eco Systems sets itself apart from the competition.

“Try to find another company on the West Coast that only does geothermal pumps. You won’t find one,” said Sanguinetti. “We’re the only one. If we did this as a sideline, we’d have to subcontract our work out, but we don’t want to subcontract. We do all our work ourselves.”

So what is a geothermal pump? Geothermal pumps make use of the earth’s ability to absorb or provide heat, and essentially transfers that heat from one place to another. The “heat exchanger,” often referred to as a closed loop system, is buried beneath the ground and circulates water mixed with antifreeze through a series of pipes. This solution captures the ground’s warmth and sends it to the home’s geothermal system, which heats the house. In the summer, the cycle is reversed. The system removes heat from the air and transfers it back into the earth and, in this way, cools the house. As an added bonus, the system is attached to a water heater and provides 125-degree domestic hot water year round.

“I’ve never had an unhappy customer,” said Sanguinetti. “Geothermal systems are quiet, incredibly effective, they require no maintenance, and — what gets me really excited — they’re good for the environment.”

According to Sanguinetti, 27 percent of the carbon monoxide in California is produced by fossil fuels related to home cooling and heating alone. “If just one home replaces their traditional heating and cooling units with a geothermal system, it will take four metric tons of carbon monoxide out of the atmosphere in 12 months — four tons.”

Unfortunately, the United States seems to be lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to geothermal unit installations. While more than 250,000 geothermal units were installed in Canada last year, a mere 64,000 geothermal units were installed in the United States. Why? Sanguinetti thinks it has to do with the seven-year itch.

“Until now people bought a home and planned to sell it within three to seven years, so it wasn’t worth the financial investment. Within the last five years, however, the demographics have changed dramatically. People are planning to stay in their homes a lot longer. As soon as you make that paradigm shift, installing geothermal makes sense.”

When working with a potential customer, Sanguinetti and his crew will come to their home, take all of the necessary measurements and come back with a 20-page fully engineered proposal so that customers can make a well-informed decision. Sierra Eco Systems can install a system in as little as three days and also provides customers with a list of previous customers they can call to find out about their experiences.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could find a better job,” said Sanguinettie. “I work hard and I get plenty dirty, but I love the product, and I’m helping save the planet and providing solutions for people, too. To me, that’s not work.”

Come visit our booth at the El Dorado County Home and Garden Show, May 3-5, 2013. For more information, please visit or call 530-676-2086.

Jessica Cyphers


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