Geothermal heating and cooling is becoming more popular among homeowners. You can cut your utility bills in half with a geothermal heat pump, so it can be well worth the upfront investment. Is your existing HVAC equipment meeting all your needs in a cost-effective way? Here’s a look at geothermal systems to help determine if one might suit your home.
Primary Function of a Geothermal Heat Pump System
A geothermal heat pump works by extracting heat energy. Rather than generating it, the system moves heat from the ground, perhaps directly under your lawn. Not too far underground, it’s always about 50°F, regardless of the air temperature or season.
An air-source heat pump, the conventional type, struggles to extract heat from freezing air. A ground-source system is a different story. It constantly circulates liquid through the ground loop to extract and disperse heat; it can also operate in reverse to help cool your home. Depending on the installation, ductwork may or may not be required.
A heat pump system may be installed in one of these types of configurations:
- Vertical Closed-Loop: A U-shaped high-density polyethylene pipe extends at least 300 feet down, while a water/methanol mix circulates and uses conduction to exchange heat.
- Horizontal Closed-Loop: The pipes are placed only about 6 to 10 feet underground, running back and forth under the surface. This design requires digging 300 feet of trenches for installation.
- Open-Loop: Groundwater is pumped from a 75 to 100 foot well into a heat exchanger. It is then pumped into a second well. Abundant groundwater is required, as is a high water table, for the heat pump to function properly.
If you are considering an upgrade to your home HVAC system, these are some of the advantages of geothermal heating to think about:
- Efficiency: Geothermal systems are twice as efficient as some of the top-rated ACs on the market. To achieve about 12,000 BTUs of heating and cooling, just one kilowatt-hour of electricity is needed, and about four units of energy are generated per every unit of electricity. A traditional heat pump uses 2.2 kilowatt-hours to provide the same conditioning power in 95°F temperatures.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers a geothermal heat pump system to be the most eco-friendly available; it doesn’t even burn fossil fuels or emit any toxic fumes.
- Longevity: A properly maintained geothermal system can last over 20 years. Underground loop components can run trouble-free for 50 years. The maintenance requirements are minimal compared to air conditioners, furnaces, and water heaters. Geothermal units are placed indoors, where they are protected. For the most part, maintenance involves just changing filters and inspecting the system periodically.
- Water Savings: Not only do geothermal systems come in different types. They can also be customized with various add-on components. One is a desuperheater; it uses extra heat energy in summer to heat water, so less is wasted while you wait for it to heat up. This means you can see additional utility bill savings all year long.
A geothermal system can easily cost $20,000 to $30,000 to install for an average 2,000 square foot home. The payoff in energy savings depends on how much you consume (the Air Force Institute of Technology estimates installation costs can be recouped in seven to eight years). Efficiency goals will be hard to achieve if your home isn’t well-insulated, there’s poor air sealing, or your windows are leaky.
It can take time to break even. A number of variables are in play, including the cost of excavation and drilling, the efficiency of a particular system, and local utility rates. But efficiency isn’t the only area where you can save. If you install an Energy Star-rated system, you can qualify for a tax credit. Property value can increase as well, allowing you to sell your home for a higher price.
Contact Sky Heating, A/C & Plumbing
If seeking heat pump installers near you, Sky can help upgrade your home and take advantage of Oregon’s geothermal resources. Switching to a geothermal heat pump may seem like a complex process. Our team is with you every step of the way, starting with a thorough site evaluation. We determine the best-sized system and are up-front about the total cost. You can also trust our team for heat pump repair and other services. To talk with our geothermal contractors, call (503) 676-6945 today.