In the current real estate market, there’s a lot of competition, so it’s a given that every home for sale has to stand out. The same goes for the new-home building industry. In this area, buyers can now have their choice of new home in a new development on almost any back road, all touting that they are “minutes from the beach.” But not all of them are promoting that they were built with the environment in mind. That’s where Miranda and Hardt come in.
One of their recent developments, a nine-home community named Bridle Ridge, has that right on their welcome sign: “An environmentally friendly community.”
“We do it because it’s the right thing to do,” explained co-owner Frank Miranda.
One of the main “green” elements that Miranda and Hardt use and support is the use of geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Geothermal systems have been around for years and have been called many things, including geo-thermal, geo-exchange, ground-water, ground-water assisted, ground-water-source, water-to-water and water furnace, but basically they are simply systems that use technology to tap into the earth’s natural energy and temperature — which stays relatively constant — to regulate the heating and cooling of homes.
Before joining Mark Hardt in 1999 to form Miranda and Hardt Contracting, Frank Miranda owned many of the TCBY shops in the Delaware beach area. It was working there that he first learned of geo-thermal’s existence.
“Greg Allen from A&A Heating and Cooling would come in and look at the yogurt machines and tell me that the technology exists to use something similar in your home, so I became one of the first people around here to put one in at my house,” Miranda said.
“In the 15 years since I’ve had it, it’s paid me back again and again,” he added. “The great thing about it is you are not burning a fossil fuel. You are not burning coal, or wood, or gas or oil. You are using the natural temperature of the earth as it is absorbed. It’s environmentally friendly, reliable and has low operating costs.”
Mark Hardt came with a background in construction, having helped his father and brothers in such work since high school. When the two joined forces, being environmentally friendly was a goal from the start.
In addition to the geothermal systems, they provide their customers with information on the benefits of tankless water heaters — which instantly heat hot water as homes need it, rather than storing heated water — Energy Star appliances, efficient windows and doors, blown-in fiberglass insulation and 40- to 50-year shingles.
“That’s one of the big things we do,” said Hardt, “because if you use the better-quality 40- to 50-years shingles, that’s less landfill waste. It’s all about enhanced comfort for our customers,” he continued. “On about 90 percent of our projects we use geothermal and the more environmentally friendly aspects, and when we don’t it’s only because we are doing what the customer wants.”
According to Water Furnace, which produces just one of the brands of geothermal units available, “A geothermal system operates more efficiently than ordinary heating and air conditioning systems because it can deliver an astounding five units of energy for every one unit of electrical energy used. By combining stored earth energy with safe electric power, many owners realize savings up to 70 percent for heating, cooling and hot water.”
In addition to the energy efficiency a geothermal system provides, there are substantial financial benefits as well. According to their Web site at waterfurnace.com, a typical 1,500-square-foot house in this area with a geothermal system saves about half of the annual heating and cooling bills, from $1,100 or so down to about $560 per year, versus a standard efficiency heat pump.
Miranda and Hardt are converts to the value of such systems for their home owners. But they’re also looking ahead to new technologies that they are beginning to make available to their clients as well.
“We don’t want to come off like we think we are experts,” acknowledged Hardt. “We are always open to learning new stuff. Right now, we are looking into the photovoltaic panels and also the shingles that they have available, because that’s a big objection to the panels — that they don’t blend in to the rest of your roof.”
Solar shingles use the same kind of technology as the standard photovoltaic panels but come in a form factor that closely replicates standard asphalt shingles, reducing the visual impact of that form of “green” energy generation for home owners who might otherwise be reluctant to pay an aesthetic price for lower electrical bills and a more environmentally friendly home.
“Mostly,” Hardt said, “what we want customers to know is that we put our money where are mouth is. Many of the commercial buildings we’ve developed are geothermal. The building our office is in is geothermal. I just retrofitted my own house. Just like with the solar panels, there are financial rebates out there, but we do it because it’s the right thing.”
“We like to say we have the big-city technology with the small-town service,” added Hardt with a smile.
Recently, John O’Leary has joined Miranda and Hardt as a partner and they purchased Fortress Pro Watch and Maintenance — an employee-owned home maintenance company — adding home maintenance to their repertoire of services. For more information on the two companies, check out the Web site at mirandahardt.com.
To learn more about the environmental benefits of geothermal use in homes or businesses, including a savings calculator, visit waterfurnace.com online.