Understanding Geothermal Heating and Cooling

We hear the term ‘geothermal’ often in the media but not everyone is aware of what it is and how it works. Simply put, geothermal heat pumps are an efficient way to heat and cool your home or business. They are also able to provide free hot water if set up to do so.

No matter where we live, no matter the climate we live in, a few feet below the grounds surface the earth stays at a relatively constant temperature. The ground temperature ranges from 45°F to 75°F. In the winter the ground temperature is warmer than the air above and in the summer the ground temperature is cooler that the air. Geothermal heat pumps use the constant temperature of the earth below the frost line as the exchange medium instead of the air temperature outside. During the heating cycle they use the earth loop to extract heat from the ground. As it pulls the heat from the earth the system distributes through a conventional duct system. In the cooling mode, the heating process is simply reversed. Instead of extracting heat from the earth, heat is extracted from the air in your home or business and either moves back into the earth loop or is used to heat the water in your hot water tank.

There are four basic types of geothermal systems. There are three types that are called closed-loop systems and the fourth is an open-loop system. They are available for commercial buildings, new construction and existing homes.

Unlike conventional furnaces that burn a fuel to generate heat, geothermal heat pumps use electricity to move the heat from the earth to your home or business. Geothermal technology is a great investment that will help save you money on your utilities each year. Most homeowners see a reduction in their energy bills of 30 to 70 percent. These systems have a lower maintenance cost and have a longer life expectancy than other heating and cooling systems.

Because these systems are so efficient and environmentally friendly, you can receive a tax credit for the installation of a geothermal system. In 2009, a 30% tax credit for the installation of a geothermal system was enacted. This credit is available through 2016. There are a few qualifications one needs to meet to get the tax credit.

Geothermal energy is not a new technology. It has been around for several decades. They have gone by different names over the years. They have been called ground-water assisted, ground-water source and geoexchange to name a few.

The Return on Your Home Renovation Investment

Before you take on any kind of home renovation project, you need to think about what you’re going to get out of it when it comes time to sell your home — whether that’s a month from now or five years from now.

No matter when you plan on selling your home, here’s how to measure the true value of your renovation:

1. Don’t always think in terms of dollars and cents

Instead of worrying about getting every penny back on that $5,000 you spent in your master bathroom, think about the other rewards that bathroom can bring you — like being able to sell your house in less time.

A buyer may not be willing to spend an extra $5,000 on your house just because you renovated the bathroom. However, they may walk into your luxurious, spa-like master bathroom retreat and fall head over heels for it — and decide that they’ve absolutely-positively-gotta-have your home.

Remember, the longer your house sits on the market, the lower its chances of getting the full asking price. Plus, you’ll have to keep making mortgage payments, paying homeowners’ association fees, and homeowners’ insurance premiums the entire time it’s on the market. If you can get rid of all that responsibility sooner rather than later, your renovation really did pay off!

2. Think about the maintenance

If you add something to your home that requires a lot of extra maintenance — like a pool — potential buyers may actually consider it more of a liability than a luxury. After all, if the buy your home, they’ll have to deal with keeping the pool clean (or paying someone to do it). If that’s not something they want to deal with, it can actually prevent them from buying your house altogether. So much for getting a return on your investment!

And, remember, until you sell the house, you’ll have to deal with all of the maintenance yourself — on top of the initial expense. So, if the pool costs $10,000 to build and $100 per month in chemicals and other maintenance, you’ll have to figure that monthly expense into your budget.

3. Look at it from the buyer’s perspective

You may not necessarily think of roof repairs as an “upgrade”(at least, not in the way you think of granite countertops and stainless steel appliances). However, those roof repairs represent one less thing a buyer has to deal with. Now, he doesn’t have to move in an address the roof problems.

That convenience alone can make your house stand out ahead of all the other nearby houses for sale!

4. Don’t assume you have to spend a ton of money in the first place

That investment you’re trying to get a return on doesn’t have to be money. It can also be time.

If you skip the expensive renovation projects and simply spend a few days with your sleeves rolled up, clearing out all of the clutter in your house, it can make a much better impression than any fancy kitchen or modern bathroom.

In fact, some good ol’ fashioned de-cluttering can show off the natural beauty of your home, which will make it easier to sell.

And best of all, it can help you fetch your full asking price — all without spending a dime! Now THAT’S time well-spent!

Hype, The Cloud, and Why Small Business Should Move Now

Just a little over 3 years ago (July 2009), Cloud computing was at a stage of the Gartner, Inc. Hype Cycle called “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” Gartner has since segmented Cloud technology into several components, most of which they now (October 12) show on the “Slope of Enlightenment.”

I believe several components of Cloud computing are now at the“Plateau of Productivity,”especially for Small Business.

At the beginning of the hype cycle, many different but related technologies are lumped together in one big family and given a catchy name. While this may be necessary in order to generate the excitement or “buzz” that motivates investment and product development (the trigger), it confuses many potential customers, especially those without ready access to technical knowledge – small businesses.

Later in the hype cycle, each technology begins to be scrutinized separately and the group fragments into different components again. But, it can still seem to the less technical, like an all or nothing proposition. Small businesses need to understand what pieces of cloud technology are important to them and which pieces can be left for service providers and others to worry about.

Cutting through the hype

All small businesses use electricity, but most don’t need to understand how it is generated. Virtually none of them generate it for themselves. Cloud computing can be thought of as a utility, much like electricity. Cloud computing encompasses many different outsourced data processing services. There are three major categories of services:

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure includes server and network hardware, operating systems software, backup systems, data center cooling, fire suppression and operations services like monitoring and maintenance. Companies that use only IaaS have to provide platform, application and other software, as well configuration and maintenance of the software.

One of the promised benefits of IaaS is “on demand,” scalable processing power. It is hoped that when this technology matures, a more cost effective “metered” approach to billing for IaaS services will develop. IaaS customers will likely be larger businesses. They will migrate slowly by business unit and application. Some will deploy “private clouds” and many will adopt a hybrid of private and managed services clouds.

PaaS – Platform as a Service

Platforms are database systems and middleware – application, web, email and groupware servers. Companies using PaaS will also need IaaS. Like most technologies, once widely adopted, IaaS and PaaS services will move down market as they become more and more affordable.

SaaS – Software as a Service

SaaS includes applications like Salesforce.com, Google Apps for Business, and Microsoft Office 365. Accounting, finance, customer relationship management, expense reporting, project management and many other types of business software are available as SaaS.

SaaS can be thought of as “off the shelf” application software. Most small businesses will be able to find all the SaaS applications they need to run their business. It is configurable and customizable, just like other “off the shelf” software, but with the major advantages that come with not needing to provision and maintain platforms and infrastructure.

Businesses using SaaS only need to worry about inputting, processing and retrieving their data. They access their applications via the Internet. Their employees need only a computer, web browser and Internet connection. Businesses large and small will benefit from greatly reduced costs for information technology. Existing IT staffs will need to become more business oriented and use their skills to focus on integration, solutions and training.

Many SaaS cloud offerings available today are already in the “Plateau of Productivity” stage of the hype cycle. SaaS is secure, reliable and affordable. Remote computing, real time collaboration, and video teleconferencing are just some of the affordable features included in many SaaS products and services.

Small businesses should start taking advantage of the cost savings, flexibility and capabilities of cloud computing now.