Successful builders have known for years that in order to succeed they must offer a product that meets – and exceeds – the needs of their buyers. Today, buyers want green, no doubt, but green that makes economic sense. The Bridges, a new development, geothermal community in Lincoln, Nebraska (go Big Red!), is proving that enviro-friendly can be economically viable as well. Built by Mike Rezac of Rezac Construction, this " a completely geothermal community using a network of strategically located ponds throughout the 200-acre development.

Specific highlights of the development include:

  1. Positive environmental impacts; home builders are encouraged to use recycled materials, sustainable forestry products, and deep root grasses which require very little water.
  2. Healthier living spaces through reduced indoor air pollution.
  3. A living nature reserve, including fish and fowl habitats.

Geothermal technology uses the earth’s natural thermal energy -- a renewable resource -- to heat and cool a home. While outdoor temperatures fluctuate substantially with the seasons, subsurface ground and water temperatures remain relatively constant year-round. At The Bridges, Rezac wrote, a thermal loop, running underground and underwater, capitalizes on these constant temperatures. For example, in the winter, fluid circulating through the loop absorbs heat and carries it indoors where it is compressed to a higher temperature and distributed throughout your home. Conversely, in the summer, the system reverses, pulling heat from a home and using the loop to deposit it in the cooler earth or water.

"After installation, your only operational cost is for the small amount of electricity used to operate the unit's fan, compressor, and pump," added Rezac. "So, unlike conventional systems, geothermal systems do not burn fossil fuels to generate heat—they simply transfer heat to and from the earth or pond."

According to Rezac’s brochure for The Bridges, the estimated annual costs of heating and cooling are as follows* (*estimated seasonal energy costs as calculated by Norris Public Power):

      Medium size Large size
      4-ton home 5-ton system
Geothermal heating/cooling system       $525 $665
Standard heat pump       $985 $1,250
Electric furnace with A/C       $1,350 $1,720
80% propane with A/C       $1,745 $2,225

In the underwater closed-loop system, every lot adjacent to a pond in The Bridges development has loop piping built into the lot, ready to accept a pond loop system. When a home is built, a stainless steel plate frame heat exchange unit is placed in the pond and closed-loop connection runs to the house. The underground closed-loop system, used for homes not adjacent to ponds, use underground closed-loop piping on a lot to tap into nature’s most dependable, economical heating and cooling system—geothermal.

Rezac notes that a geothermal system will have a higher installation cost compared to a conventional system, but it will usually pay for itself within three to five years through reduced utility costs. "Incorporating the cost into your home mortgage will result in immediate monthly savings," added Rezac. "Plus, geothermal systems are practically maintenance free. When installed properly, the buried loop will last for generations." Geothermal is recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as the most environmentally safe, cost-effective heating and cooling system on the market. According to the EPA, installing a geothermal system is equivalent to planting 750 trees or taking two cars off the road.

The Bridges is yet another example of building that is good for the environment and cost effective for the consumer, and a major win-win for all parties involved in the new home construction transaction.

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