What is “Geothermal” Technology?
Geothermal technology uses the earth’s renewable energy, just below the surface, to heat or cool a home or other building, and can also help provide domestic hot water. It’s sometimes referred to as a geothermal heat pump, a ground source heat pump, or earth energy. No matter what you call it, Geothermal systems are the best choice you can make for both your pocketbook and your planet. In fact, these systems are so good that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said they are, “the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available today”.
How does Geothermal work?
A few feet beneath the surface, the earth’s temperature remains fairly constant year-round, ranging from 45º or so in northern latitudes to about 70ºF in the deep south. Geothermal takes advantage of this constant temperature to provide extremely efficient heating and cooling.
In winter, a fluid circulating through pipes buried in the ground absorbs heat from the earth and carries it into the home. The Geothermal system inside the home uses a heat pump to concentrate the earth’s thermal energy and then to transfer it to the interior space for warmth.
In the summer, the process is reversed: heat is extracted from the air in the house and transferred through the heat pump to the ground loop piping. The fluid in the ground loop then carries the heat back to the earth. The only external energy needed for Geothermal is the small amount of electricity needed to operate the heat pump, ground loop pump and distribution fan or pump.
Are Geothermal system new?
The basic technology has been around for more than 50 years, and many homeowners and businesses have been enjoying the benefits of Geothermal systems for much of that time.
In recent years, though, significant improvements have been made in the materials used, installation methods, electronic control systems, and the efficiencies of the compressors, pumps and other equipment.
What are the major benefits to the homeowner?
Home owners enjoy lower utility bills (25% to 70% lower than with conventional systems), lower maintenance, and higher levels of comfort, year-round. They also have the peace of mind of knowing they’re being environmentally responsible.
Since a Geothermal system burns no fossil fuel on-site to produce heat, it generates far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional furnace, and completely eliminates a potential source of poisonous carbon monoxide within the home or building. Even factoring in its share of the emissions from the power plant that produces electricity to operate the Geothermal system, total emissions are far lower than for conventional systems.
Does Geothermal cost more?
It depends on how you measure cost. While they sometimes cost more to install in homes than conventional high efficiency systems because of the ground loop piping, Geothermal systems typically have the lowest life-cycle cost of any heating and cooling system. Heating and cooling costs for a typical 2,000-sq.-ft. home can run as low as $1 a day.
Moreover, installation costs have declined substantially in recent years.
Altogether, Geothermal systems are a sound investment. The amount they save the homeowner every month in energy costs is more than enough to offset their higher installation cost.
Remember, too, that Geothermal means extra savings on repair, maintenance, and utility bills.
Furthermore, the energy efficiency of the system adds value to the home. The National Association of Realtors Appraisal Journal estimated that a home’s value increases by $10 to $25 for every $1 reduction in utility bills. That’s a lot of equity to build just by choosing Geothermal!
Are there tax benefits for choosing a Geothermal System?
Yes. There is a federal personal tax credit of 30%, with no upper limit, given for geothermal heat pumps used in residential applications and placed in service after 12/31/2008. Geothermal heat pumps must meet Energy Star criteria. The tax credit will expire 12/31/2016. For more information, visit the Energy Star website at http://www.energystar.gov/taxcredits