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Alphabet X lab spinoff Dandelion raises $16 million for home geothermal systems

Google parent company Alphabet’s secretive X lab has birthed many a spinoff, the newest of which is energy company Malta. It’s also responsible for Project Wing, the drone delivery service designed to improve access to goods, and Loon, a balloon network that beams internet service to remote areas — not to mention driverless car company Waymo, life sciences company Verily, and cybersecurity intelligence offshoot Chronicle.

Dandelion is yet another graduate of X, where it was incubated for two years, and it’s no less ambitious than the rest of its cohorts. The New York startup aims to cut customers’ electricity bills in half with a geothermal, environmentally-friendly heating and cooling system — the aptly-named Dandelion Home Geothermal System — that operates beneath buildings. Now, after installing systems in Upstate New York during a six-month pilot and selling 70 in existing homes in 2017, it’s scaling operations with a new round of funding.

Dandelion today announced that it has secured $16 million in financing from GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Comcast Ventures, with participation from Lennar Corporation and previous investors NEA, Collaborative Fund, Ground Up, and Zhenfund, among others. Former Googler and Dandelion CEO Kathy Hannun says the influx of cash — which brings the company’s total capital raised to $23 million — will fuel growth and R&D, along with the opening of new warehouses across New York State.

As part of the round, GV partner Shaun Maguire and Comcast Ventures managing director Sam Landman will join Dandelion’s board.

“In partnership with world-class investors including GV, Comcast Ventures, and Lennar Corporation, the nation’s leading home builder, as well as with the continued support of our existing investors, we’re eager to continue to advance our mission of enabling the widespread adoption of geothermal,” Hannun said.

Dandelion

The Series A comes after Dandelion’s acquisition of Geo-Connections, a geothermal software-as-a-service company that develops the underlying tech used in “tens of thousands” of geothermal systems across the U.S., in March 2018. And it precedes the broad launch of Dandelion’s second product — Dandelion Radiate — that works with traditional radiators. Dandelion says that “thousands” of people are on its waitlist, and that it’s New York’s largest residential geothermal installer by volume.

Like most geothermal solutions, the Home Geothermal System taps the ground’s energy with plastic pipes and pumps, the latter of which are installed in-home. The systems move heat from the ground into the house when it’s cold out, and vice versa during hot spells.

But unlike run-of-the-mill systems, which are typically custom-built, Dandelion Air is designed to work in abodes of all sizes and shapes. It’s also packed with a self-diagnostic processing and sensor package that autonomously checks to ensure units are correctly installed at runtime, and that monitors various performance metrics to identify issues that might occur.

Dandelion claims its system is four times more efficient than furnaces and almost twice as efficient as traditional air condition systems.

That’s not the only thing that sets it apart from the rest. Installation is typically the trickiest part of geothermal deployment — most companies use wide drills designed to dig water wells at depths of over 1,000. Dandelion, by contrast, uses a custom rig that bores smaller holes a few inches in diameter at shallower depths, enabling installers to complete jobs in less than a day.

Still, the upfront costs are substantial. Excepting monthly financing, they run between $20,000 to $25,000 — and that’s not including the cost of vents in homes that lack them. (An included Nest Learning Thermostat softens the blow, but not by much.) For those willing to fork over the cash, Dandelion says the savings (with tax credits) can be between 20 percent to 70 percent a year, which works out to roughly $135 a month over 20 years ($32,400).

There’s plenty of incentive besides, to be fair. Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption — to which air conditioners contribute substantially — are forecast to reach 2.28 billion tons in 2050, while heating fuels currently generate 11 percent of all emissions related to the heating of homes and businesses in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The home heating and cooling industry has been constrained by lack of innovation and high-costs,” said Sam Landman, managing director of Comcast Ventures. “The team at Dandelion and their modern approach to implementing geothermal technology is transforming the industry and giving consumers a convenient, safe, and cost-effective way to heat and cool their homes while reducing carbon emissions.”

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