At Sky Heating, we receive many questions about geothermal heating systems. Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions we get and expert answers to help you decide on the right geothermal heat pump for your home.
What Is a Geothermal Heat Pump?
Also called a ground source heat pump, this device has components inside your home, usually in place of a furnace, and underground pipes. It is designed to circulate fluid to and from the ground that transports thermal energy. The system can either heat and cool your home depending on your needs.
How Do They Work?
A geothermal system taps into heat underground, where at just a few feet below, the ambient temperature is about 50°F year-round. It can heat your home in the winter and, in reverse, can put heat back underground to keep your home cool in the summer. The process works as follows:
- Heat is absorbed and transported using a water-based solution that passes through underground pipes.
- This solution exchanges heat with liquid refrigerant used by the heat pump.
- Vaporized refrigerant is sent to a compressor, where it is heated and pressurized
- A heat exchanger transfers heat from the hot vapor to the air.
- Hot air is distributed via ductwork in your home.
What’s the Difference Between a Geothermal and Regular System?
A conventional heating system produces heat by burning oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels. Different components provide heating or air conditioning. In addition to providing cool air and heat, a geothermal system requires no fossil fuels to transfer heat to and from the ground. It is efficient, environmentally friendly, and more affordable to run.
How Long Do They Last?
Once the ground loops are installed, they will likely never need replacement, as geothermal pipe can last 100 years or more! The indoor heat pump lasts about 25 years on average but can operate for much longer. You’ll never have to worry about furnace replacement, which may be necessary about 10 to 15 years after installation. Indoor components can be replaced without even touching the ground loop.
How Long Does Installation Take?
The exact installation time depends on your home. On average, it takes around 2 to 3 days to install the interior components and 2 to 4 days to install the ground system; the work for both is usually done simultaneously. Whole house ductwork, however, takes longer to install. Depending on building size and installation requirements, this can take 2 to 4 weeks.
Do They Require Significant Maintenance?
The external parts of your heating and cooling system require little or no maintenance throughout their lifetime. The water solution is pumped at low pressure so puts little strain on the system. The heat pump is typically designed much like a refrigerator and factory sealed. The only maintenance usually needed is regular filter changes.
Are Geothermal Heat Pumps Energy-Efficient?
Burning fuel sources to create energy has inherent inefficiencies. However, a geothermal system is about 400% efficient. It actually supplies four units of heat energy for every unit of energy used. Most of the energy that delivers heating is supplied from the ground. Just a fraction of it involves the consumption of electricity.
Are They Economically Comparable to a Regular System?
A regular system does not use renewable energy, so it’s neither as environmentally friendly nor economical as a geothermal heating system. A geothermal system taps into heat stored underground, which comes from nearly 50% of the solar energy that reaches the Earth. It’s even more economical than an air source system that creates warm or cold air from outdoor temperatures.
Can You Get Any Tax Credit for Installing a Geothermal Heat Pump?
The federal tax credits for installing a residential geothermal heat pump have been renewed through 2021. Through 2019, the tax credit was 30%, which will be reduced annually. To qualify for the tax credit, your system must meet/exceed the requirements of Energy Star, and you can claim the cost of equipment, parts and materials, digging, and labor. State and local tax credits may be available as well.
What’s the Average Cost?
The cost of a geothermal system depends on its size. A heat pump alone goes for $1,500 to $2,500 per ton on average. If your home requires a 5-ton pump (typically for a 2,000 square foot home), that would put it at $7,500 to $12,500. That does not include the ground loop or additional work such as installing or modifying electrical components, ductwork, or water hook-ups. While the cost is substantially higher than conventional systems, return on investment, lower operating costs, and increases in property value can offset the difference.
Contact Sky Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing
Our trained technicians can assess your home to determine if furnace replacement or geothermal heat pump installation is the better option. Serving Beaverton, Tualatin, and other communities in the Portland area, we can help you save energy and protect the environment. If you’re ready to see year-round savings, we’ll help you every step of the way. Schedule a visit online or call (541) 275-2797 to get started.