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Retired United Methodist pastor Franklin Delano Turney and his wife, Donna, saved an abandoned Hartselle home, and later installed a geothermal heating and cooling system. Turney expects he’ll save between $100 and $150 a month and the system will pay for itself in five years.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Retired United Methodist pastor Franklin Delano Turney and his wife, Donna, saved an abandoned Hartselle home, and later installed a geothermal heating and cooling system. Turney expects he’ll save between $100 and $150 a month and the system will pay for itself in five years.

Hartselle man digs to save bundle
Retired pastor saves declining house, installs geothermal heating and cooling system

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com· 340-2438

HARTSELLE — When J. Alva Clements and his wife, Myrtle, had the brick home built here at 405 Main St. in 1938-39, workers installed an automatic coal stoker furnace.

The cooling apparatus wasn’t as elaborate. The Clementses relied on outside air flowing in through 23 windows.

Years later, residents switched to natural gas and eventually added a window air conditioner.

Retired United Methodist pastor Franklin Delano Turney and his wife, Donna, rescued the house in 2001 when they bought it from the Clementses’ friend Faye McCurley. For the previous 13 years, it was uninhabited and was fast declining.

Geothermal system

In August, Turney, 72, who describes himself as an innovative person who lives on the edge of new technology, decided to install a geothermal heating and cooling system.

“I don’t know of a system like mine in another residence in Hartselle,” he said. “I’m intrigued with this kind of stuff. My people on my mother’s side are mechanical geniuses and I must take after them. I do my own thinking and I make mistakes, and I have to pay for them. But with this system, I’ve hit upon a winner.”

Turney said F.E. Burleson Elementary School and Hartselle Utilities have geothermal units. He said he visited both places to examine the systems. He said the school operates with 27 wells.

“I figured that (the system), if installed correctly at my house, would pay for itself in five years, compared with the expense of a regular heat pump,” he said.

He estimates that he’ll save an average of $100 to $150 a month on utilities.

“Another way to look at it is that to realize that much of a monthly return, you’d have to invest about $40,000,” he said. “And then the government would get 30 percent of it. On this investment, I get to keep it all.”

But it wasn’t easy reaching the comfort and economical levels he desired.

He spent $11,000 and he had to go down — way down — to a depth of 200 feet for four 5-inch-diameter wells.

“A Mississippi company did the drilling, using bits that penetrate the hardest of limestone, and I’ve got limestone,” Turney said.

“They did the drilling using 10-foot drill sections. The wells were the largest expense at $5,600.”

Pipes go down and return in a closed loop system using antifreeze. The system circulates the antifreeze into the wells, where it gets its capacity to heat and to cool.

Efficiency

Turney explained that, for example, during 15-degree weather, a normal heat pump is working against 15 degrees on the outside. He said his pump, a Hydro-Temp built by a Pocahontas, Ark., company, which he installed himself, works against 68 degrees underground circulation, allowing the capacity to heat and to cool more efficiently and less expensively.

“With a conventional system in what’s known as a pump and dump system, you take water from some source, run it through your heating and cooling system, dump it and don’t ever reuse it,” he said. “The system collects grit that wears out the pipes. Also, the Hydro-Temp is an industrial grade with two compressors that won’t freeze up.”

Turney said his house is among the first in Hartselle built with architectural plans. The architect was from Dallas and Turney still has the blueprints.

And when he drives past First United Methodist Church on East Hickory Street, he might feel more at home than others. For across the street, he sees a mirror-type reflection of his home.

“The Clementses loaned the plans to the church for a parsonage,” he said. “Today, it’s the church’s Faith House.

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