PARK CITY, UTAH — When Mike Doleac set out to build his 6,500-sq.ft. dream home here, he brought to the task a set of teambuilding and leadership skills honed during his 10-year career as a professional basketball player.
Doleac played a key role in Rick Majerus’ University of Utah team that reached the 1998 NCAA Final Four, then went on to play for six teams in the NBA. If his experience on the court has taught him anything, it’s to have a rational plan, and then find the right people to execute that plan.
“I like to have a thought process, and I believe that even if the thoughts are incorrect, it’s so important to have a process that’s based on a rationale,” Doleac said. “I don’t like it when people just move forward without thought.”
For his new home, the rationale was three-pronged: comfort, efficiency and low environmental impact. “My wife and I wanted the house to be an eco-friendly home despite its size,” Doleac said, “and we spent a lot of time doing all the legwork to get the right team members in place.”
In addition to G.C. Scott Ellerbeck of Ellerbeck Construction, Doleac hired The Highland Group as architects, Gardner Alternative Energy Services for the photovoltaic system, Narco Plumbing & Heating for the radiant floor tubing installation, and Carl Pond of Carl Pond Plumbing & Heating to tie it all together.
Carl Pond Plumbing & Heating has been in business since 1996, headquartered in North Salt Lake, Utah. The shop ranges anywhere from 15 to 25 employees, depending on the season and the workload. Pond, the owner/operator, is himself a second-generation master plumber who came to the green side of the business through radiant heating.
“I’ve focused, since the early 1980s, on radiant,” Pond said. “I really got into the technology and from there it was only a step.”
That step was towards solar-powered radiant systems, a winning combination for a state like Utah that averages 300 full sun days a year.
While researching, Doleac heard about the work Pond and his company were doing and called him out of the blue. They sat down to breakfast and Pond gave him a proposal based on technology that’s been used over the last 30 years in Austria, but hasn’t seen a lot of use yet in the U.S. (Carl Pond P&H has a sister company based out of Austria, Thermal Technologies LLC.) Doleac did his own research before finally agreeing to the plan.
Pond installed a series of Oko Tech solar collectors (these are large-mass, flat panel solar thermal collectors) that are able to supply 48% of the building’s heating needs via the radiant system, and 98% of all domestic hot water needs.
The energy collected is transferred through a heat exchanger to a custom-built, 240-gal. buffer tank that measures 80-in. tall, and 30-in. in diameter. The shape of the tank is intentional, to take advantage of heat stratification; water is naturally warmer at the top and cooler at the bottom.
“We want to store energy,” explained Carl Pond. “We don’t want to be losing energy by moving it around.” Sensors allow the system to draw from either the top or the middle of the tank, depending on what is needed to heat the house, resulting in extremely high efficiencies.
Supplementing the solar system is a Laars NeoTherm 285 direct-vent, sealed combustion, condensing boiler with 90% plus AFUE that modulates with a 5:1 turndown ratio.
Grundfos circulators are used to move the heated water through the home. Stainless steel piping is needed to transfer the water from the solar collectors to the heat exchanger because at that point the water can reach temperatures of up to 385°F. The rest of the piping borrows from another European innovation, Aquatherm polypropylene-random (PP-R) pipe, manufactured in Germany.
“I felt all right using it since it was a welded joint,” Scott Ellerbeck said. “I’ve had a lot of problems with mechanical joints over the years and I could see that the heat fusion was going to be solid.”
Carl Pond has been using the pipe for years (in fact, he owns an Aquatherm distributor, Eco-Energysystems), and he swears by it. In fact, he will no longer use copper on jobs where he can use Aquatherm. By using the pipe he can offer his customers a 10-year warranty, which he simply cannot do with any other product.
“The ambient temperature loss is minimal because of the R-value of the pipe,” Pond said. “Plus, there’s no leak path. In the three years my company has been using that pipe I’ve never had a leak in a joint.”
In addition, Aquatherm’s Greenpipe was used for the potable water system.
The radiant installation was naturally done with PEX tubing with a lightweight concrete
pour. The Doleac house has a crawlspace under it, so there are no concrete slabs.
The mechanical room needed to include enough space for the electrical, the solar, the tanks, the boiler, the pumps, the softener, the indirect-fired water heater, and room enough to reach and service everything, all laid out in a finished, painted room. The meticulous attention to detail — Carl Pond had to create a mock-up of the mechanical room before installing the system — speaks to the homeowner’s habits of mind.
“Here’s the thing about Mike Doleac,” Carl Pond said, “He likes things clean, very straight, and very well-organized. The whole room had to be designed around ease of use and service.”
Construction of the Doleac house began in October of 2009 and finished in mid-summer of 2010, and Carl Pond Plumbing & Heating was in and out as the work progressed, devoting roughly four weeks of work altogether, for which they charged close to $36,000.
Carl Pond met with Mike Doleac at the end of August for a follow up and found the system running well.
“He’s using hardly any gas right now,” Pond said. Estimates done by Carl Pond P&H predict roughly $2,585 per year in energy savings, and anywhere from a 58% to a 79% reduction in CO2 emissions.
“He loves his home,” Pond said. “He’s a guy who expects excellence… you should know your work and do it well. Which is great. I love working for people like that.”