8 benefits of geothermal heating and cooling systems

8 benefits of geothermal heating and cooling systems

Digging deep into geothermal systems

Geothermal systems can produce sticker shock, but the greatly reduced electrical bills — and the 30 percent federal tax credit — might be worth the initial investment.

Once you get past the higher upfront costs of a geothermal heat pump (GHP), you'll key in on the proven benefits that investment offers.

In fact, upon reviewing the benefits, it's likely that you'll think of the system as a must-have when the time comes to upgrade HVAC equipment in your home.

• High efficiency means lower operational costs. In some climates and scenarios, GHPs perform at a 6-to-1 ratio, meaning they deliver six times the heat for every one unit of electricity consumed. Choose an Energy Star-qualified system that earns tax credits, and you'll lower the purchase cost, and potential for energy savings, even more.

• Safety. GHPs use free, renewable energy sourced from the under the ground instead of relying on flammable fossil fuel energy. As a result, the safety of your home increases, with no combustion gases, toxic fumes or carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as no risk for explosions. GHPs are ultra-safe.

• Green. GHPs don't burn fossil fuels, and they consume little electricity to power the pump that moves heat energy into and out of the house. As a result, they are a very environmentally friendly heating and cooling system. Sourcing renewable energy under the ground, they incur little impact on the environment.

• Quiet. Because GHPs don't require the installation of a noisy outdoor condensing unit that's standard issue for central air conditioning, they're very quiet.

• Longevity. Compared to the average life cycle of standard heating and cooling systems, which rests around 13 to 15 years, GHPs last about 24 years, and the underground looping components last even longer: up to 50 years. With an extended service life, you'll get more bang for your buck when you invest in geothermal heating and cooling.

• Comfort. You can expect several comfort-related benefits from investing in a GHP. Namely, air purification and optimal dehumidification are two of the primary benefits GHPS deliver in terms of comfort. Because they don't require the influx of outdoor air ventilation to supply energy, there's less exposure to outdoor pollutants. The constant but low cycling of the air handler also encourages ideal dehumidification levels in the home at all times. Further, the low but continuous cycling of the air handler encourages even distribution of heated and cooled air, further boosting home comfort by doing away with cold and hot zones homeowners commonly experience with forced-air heating and cooling systems.

• Flexible system types. While thermal capacity and soil conditions may vary from state to state, a number of geothermal system types exist to suit the conditions of your lot. Horizontal loops accommodate shallow thermal transfer, whereas vertical loops accommodate small lots. Water-source systems take advantage of well, lake or pond energy sources.

• Additional water savings. Boost your potential for energy savings even more by adding a desuperheater to your GHP. The add-on component is particularly adept at taking extra energy often available in summer (when the GHP uses the ground as a heat sink) and using it to heat water for your home.

If you're considering replacing your furnace with a geothermal system, check Angie's List to find a highly rated local HVAC contractor that specializes in this technology.

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What to know before you go geothermal


For this geothermal heat installation, workers dug a 5-foot-deep, 4-foot-wide trench from the house to the well site 100 feet away. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Robert S. of Poughkeepsie N.Y.)
For this geothermal heat installation, workers dug a 5-foot-deep, 4-foot-wide trench from the house to the well site 100 feet away. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Robert S. of Poughkeepsie N.Y.)

Efficiency ratings tell the story of any heating and cooling system, and a geothermal system is no exception. When you're comparison shopping for a GHP, get to know COP and EER to make a wise choice. And be sure to investigate Energy Star-qualified systems and tax incentives to access as much savings as possible.

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