Alphabet’s latest venture is all about geothermal heating and cooling
Dandelion is straight out of Alphabet’s “moonshot factory” startup lab, X (formerly Google X), and plans to revolutionise how Americans heat their homes. By harnessing the power of geothermal cooling and heating, Dandelion hopes to cut the fuel bills of millions of Americans (and hopefully the world) while also saving the planet from burning oil for heaters or generating electricity for air conditioning.
To harness the heating and cooling properties of the Earth, Dandelion inserts plastic pipes 100 to 150m underground to where temperatures stay a reasonably consistent 10 degrees celsius. Water is then circulated through these pipes via a pump in the home, exchanging warm water for cool or vice versa. It’s essentially using liquid cooling to regulate the temperature of your home, thus saving money and fuel on heating or cooling it over winter and summer.
The concept of geothermal cooling isn’t new – what makes Dandelion a viable company for Alphabet to spin out from its X labs is the way it does it. By redesigning the equipment used in this process, along with tightening implementation and marketing Dandelion has cut the previously hefty price tag to something a little more palatable.
Cost and drilling time has been cut in half thanks to Dandelion’s new faster and smaller drilling rigs, and custom-made heat pumps were designed in-house to reduce the cost to around $5,000 each. Dandelion is also offering up sub $200 monthly payments on financing packages for consumers and believes its $20,000 system pays for itself after around 10 years. Because the pipes are durable, they’ll last as long as the house itself and the expensive pump system will only be replaced after 25 years, meaning its cost melts away.
Here’s the bad news, it seems unlikely that we’ll be getting Dandelion in the UK any time soon. It currently operates in 11 counties in New York state, utilising the areas where burning fuel to heat a home is expensive. It then plans to work its way across the US in similar areas with high heating or cooling costs.
If Dandelion does make its way to the UK, there’s a whole raft of different issues it would need to tackle. Firstly, the ground in the UK has a very different makeup to the US – something like geothermal cooling wouldn’t work well in the heat-soaked clay underneath London, for instance.
This is not to say that Dandelion won’t come to the UK at some point in the future, but seeing as the Alphabet-incubated startup has only just raised $2 million in seed funding, it’ll be a while before we even hear whispers of it on our shores. Still, at least someone’s thinking about the implications of global warming.