As we’ve become increasingly aware of our carbon footprint and the impact of non-reusable energy on our planet, many people have begun opting for more Earth friendly options.
When it comes to heating and cooling your home, there are several greener choices that provide energy efficiency as well as monetary savings in the short and long-run.
One of the lesser known options is Geothermal, which uses the constant temperature below the Earth’s surface to heat and cool the home.
Let’s discuss some important details and address some common misconceptions about this incredible technology.
How it Works
Geothermal heating and cooling takes advantage of the Earth’s constant temperature below the surface. Depending on your particular location and climate this could range from ten feet to one hundred feet or more down and 45 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Long pipes are installed in either a vertical or horizontal pattern and most commonly filled with antifreeze liquid that flows from far down in the ground to a heat pump located within the home.
Rather than pulling air (and venting it back out) from the outside of a home like a traditional heating/cooling unit, geothermal heat transfers heat through the liquid filled tubes.
In other words, hot water cools whereas cold water is warms as it flows through the pipes buried underground. Think of what happens if you let a hot cup of tea or cold glass of water on the counter. Both would regulate to the constant temperature of the room.
So My House Will Only Be One Temperature?
This is a common point of confusion for anyone researching Geothermal energy, and for good reason.
Many articles fail to explain that the same heating and cooling exchange that takes place in any traditional condenser still occurs within the Geothermal system’s Heat pump; just with the air pumped from underground.
The biggest difference, is that rather than heating extremely cold air or cooling very hot air, you are always using air that is a consistent temperature; putting much less strain on the system and using far less energy.
To put it into monetary perspective, a traditional heating unit provide $0.65 to $0.95 of heat for every dollar spent on heating/cooling. In contrast a geothermal unit provides $3-$4 of heating/cooling for every dollar spent.
What About Very Cold Climates?
The only difference living in colder climates makes when discussing Geothermal heating and cooling is how far down you’ll have to dig the piping. Beyond that the system will work the same.
Choosing a knowledgeable contractor is extremely important for this factor. Discussing your heating and cooling needs will drastically change the equipment installed in the home.
For example, those who prefer a much warmer home should ensure that their heating pump and the pipes installed are large enough to provide the level of warmth desired.
Is it for New Construction Only?
If you’re currently in the process of building a new home, now is definitely the time to install a Geothermal heating & cooling system.
It’s absolutely possible to do so afterwards. Unfortunately it can be a messy and destructive process, especially if you have a lot of residing landscaping or permanent structures to work around on the property.
What is the Installation Cost?
Adding Geothermal heating and cooling to your home is a higher up-front cost than a traditional system.
A typical house of 2,500 sq ft usually has an installation cost of $20-$25,000 dollars between excavation and equipment cost. Attributes such as frost line, soil, tree roots and rock composition below the soil layer can all impact the final cost.
While the cost is more significant in the short-run, residents with Geothermal systems reported heating bills 40-60% lower on average. The systems themselves also have a lifespan of 16-23; nearly twice the amount of conventional HVAC set-ups.