Air Conditioning


ac_1The most complicated issue requiring the most vigorous exertion of mental energy was the heating/cooling system in the dome. Our overall design utilizes solar energy, geo-thermal energy and the 500 tons of thermal mass inherent in the shell that acts as an energy battery. Because of the intense humidity on the beach, the duct work in our previous home was a constant source of mold and mildew. Wanting to avoid that dilemma again, we researched and found the Hydro-Air System. Unlike conventional systems that heat or cool by forcing air through large, bulky ducting, hydronic air systems deliver total comfort without any ducting whatsoever. Instead of ducting, insulated Pex plumbing pipe delivers 42 degree chilled water to our 9 individual Hydro-Air units. Hydro-Air utilizes small, efficient hydronic fan coil wall units in each room that distributes cooling energy from a geo-thermal unit or a standard outdoor air conditioning unit. Hydro-Air’s owner, Tom, was very helpful in our unusual endeavor in marrying the Hydro-Air units with a geo-thermal system. Loren, Hydro-Air’s engineer, calculated what would be the most efficient tonnage (4 tons) for the dome. It will be interesting how often we actually need to use the system.

For its energy saving qualities, we chose to use a Florida Heat Pump geo-thermal unit. Florida Heat Pump was founded in 1969 with the goal of producing the finest water source heat pumps to conserve the Earth’s energy and to protect the environment. Florida Heat Pumps can reduce your heating and cooling costs by 30% to 60%. Unlike other systems that have to create heat to warm the pool, this system takes the same excess energy from the house or earth and transfers it to the pool. A thermostat regulates the temperature of the pool, making this one of the most efficient and effective ways to heat a swimming pool.

In the nine years we have lived on Pensacola Beach, we have bought 4 air-conditioning units. Storm surges and salt air reduce an outdoor unit’s lifetime significantly. The system we are installing has the unit’s components in the ground or inside the house. Adverse environmental conditions will no longer affect the longevity of the unit to such a dramatic extent. The design also reduces outdoor noise and air pollution – always a plus!

ac_2Florida Heat Pump developed the Vertical Energy System (Closed Loop) that we used. This system utilizes the natural thermal properties of the earth by circulating water or an antifreeze solution through a closed loop network of plastic pipe that is inserted into vertical wells. The loops cool the freon in the Florida Heat Pump. The Florida Heat Pump then chills the air that is run through the Hydro Air units. We required 7 wells at a depth of 250’ to run the nine-loop Hydro-Air units. The nine Hydro-Air units cool using 6 zoned thermostats. The ground at 250’ is a fairly constant temperature of 70 degrees. Conventional air units use a fan to move ambient temperature air across the condenser coils of the air-conditioner to cool the freon from a hot gas to a cool liquid. Alternatively, geo-thermal units use the constant ground temperature to bring water or antifreeze across the condensing coils to change the freon from a hot gas to a cool liquid. Because air temperature can exceed 105 degrees and ground temperature remains a fairly constant 70 degrees, GEO-THERMAL IS 300 TIMES AS EFFICIENT THAN THE CONVENTIONAL AIR UNITS .

Dave Phillips, President of Energy Design Corporation, provided the geo-thermal design , the Florida Heat Pump and AquaCal equipment needed for our home and pool. The Florida Heat Pump provided the cooling unit for the home, while the AquaCal equipment will be used to heat the swimming pool when necessary. With commercial and residential experience, Dave Phillips was prepared when he realized that Mark wanted to combine a geo-thermal system with the Hydro-Air units. He recommended we contact Bob Blythe, owner and engineer of Blythe Engineering, to help design and coordinate the systems. Mr. Blythe was familiar with hydronic systems and said this choice would be the most efficient, least expensive, and best choice for this particular application. After Dave Phillips had our wells prepared, Gary Mooneyham, owner of Mooneyham Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. will complete the installation between the geothermal and hydronic units.

Another significant advantage of each room having its own Hydro-Air unit is the reduction in humidity. Instead of having one unit removing the humidity from a single source, each room has its own unit that will be reducing the ever present humidity. A wonderful solution for homes built in humid environments.

Holographic fireplaces are the source of heat in the dome. Each room has its own fireplace, capable of heat and flames or just romantic flames in warmer weather.

Utilizing knowledge from the last home he remodeled, Mark designed the openings in the dome according to the movement of the sun across the heavens. The openings and windows in the dome are designed to receive solar gain during the winter. But, during the summer months there is no direct sunlight in contact with the windows to introduce unnecessary heat into the dome.

With the tremendous amount of human energy exerted to design this system, we are glad it will be saving energy on another realm.

I love that every room can be set for its occupant’s comfort level. I save on energy consumption by only cooling or heating the rooms in use. Each individual Hydro Air unit acts as a dehumidifier, reducing the humidity level tremendously. The result is a home that is very comfortable to live in. We have not had any problems with the HydroAir units themselves, but the wells and pumps to run the units have been a challenge. The wells were damaged in some of the hurricanes and the pumps were ruined because of the sand entering the lines. At least in Pensacola, it is difficult to find someone to repair the system in a timely manner. Gary Mooneyham and Dave Phillips have done a heroic job of trying to make the repairs quickly. However, before installing the geo-thermal system, my recommendation is to research who will be available for repairs in your area.