By Jason Klaiber
In a noon ceremony on May 23, NY-Geo presented contractor Halco Energy with the 2019 GeoStar Top Job award at the historic Fayetteville home that earned them the prestigious honor.
The winning job centered around the installation of a 12-ton geothermal system inside “The Noble House” on 305 E. Genesee St.
Owned by researcher and scientist William Sunderlin since June 2017, the home once belonged to noted abolitionist Linneaus P. Noble.
Over the course of 40 editions of his anti-slavery newspaper The National Era in 1852, Noble serialized Harriet Beecher Stowe’s widely read novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
“It was probably on the basis of the recognition that the book got in the readership of The National Era that it was very shortly thereafter published as a book, and a very famous book at that,” Sunderlin said.
The home, built in 1825, had to be converted from natural gas to geothermal heating and cooling, completely doing away with the combustion of natural gas on the premises.
“The Noble House basically shows that there’s no building in New York State that’s too old for this to happen with or that can’t be adapted,” Bill Nowak, the executive director for geothermal energy organization NY-GEO, said.
While keeping with historic preservation parameters throughout the residence, the project dealt with the insertion of four energy-efficient heat pumps, which are tubes that circulate water while picking up stored solar energy underground and transferring it to a compressor.
In the summer months, the cycle reverses—the heat is sucked from the house and pumped back beneath the ground.
“It’s technologically very viable, and it makes economic sense,” Sunderlin said.
The four-month-long retrofit process, which occurred last year from late spring to late summer, faced certain challenges.
One obstacle was that the property actually consists of two dwellings: the main house and its adjoining apartment.
To start the project, the Halco crew needed to replace insulation and tighten the home’s envelope to eliminate drafts.
More preparatory work involved digging out the basement and installing a drainage system, a vapor barrier and a high-efficiency dehumidifier.
Halco also spray foamed the attic spaces to place two of the four air handlers inside the thermal barrier.
“They did a first-rate job,” Sunderlin said. “I can’t praise them highly enough. The heating and cooling system is very efficient and comfortable and reliable.”
Sunderlin, a member of the steering committee for environmental campaign HeatSmart CNY, said he started becoming concerned about the environment in his teen years. Since the turn of the decade, he has strived more and more to follow the route of energy efficiency.
“It’s inevitable that everybody will have to make drastic changes in how we live our lives,” he said. “At the world level, greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. In the coming years, they will need to level off and go steeply downward to net zero. One way or another, we need to figure out a way to heat and cool our homes without fossil fuels.”
John Manning, the creator of the Top Job contest, presented the plaques to both Sunderlin and Halco owner Hal Smith during the May 23 ceremony.
“It’s a team effort at Halco,” Manning said. “Ten years ago, I said they were a sleeping giant in the geothermal world. Today they are a dominant player in Central New York.”
Sunderlin’s home also recently received a Pearl Platinum Certification, a seal conveying a household’s healthiness, safety, comfort and efficiency in regards to water and energy. The Noble House is one of two homes in the state to meet the designation, the other also serviced by Halco.