Geothermal heat pumps tap into the heat naturally generated just a little way below the surface of the earth. There the earth’s temperature is warm and stable, so these systems can bring stable, controllable, and effective heating, cooling, and hot water to residential and commercial buildings. Best of all, geothermal heat pumps allow people to do all this without having to use expensive, and carbon-producing fossil fuels such as oil and gas that cause global warming.
There are two types of geothermal heat pump systems: ones with closed loops and ones with open loops.
In closed-loop systems, liquid with some sort of antifreeze/anti boiling agent mixed in circulates through pipes buried just a few meters beneath the earth’s surface.
During the winter the fluid absorbs heat from this patch of earth and carries it back to the building. During the summer, the system draws heat out of the building so that it can be used to heat water or to deliver it back into the ground.
Open looped geothermal systems do the same thing, but the water within the pipes is continually refreshed.
The work of geothermal systems is done by the pipes that are buried underground, which leaves a unit likely no bigger than your current hot water heater and furnace to be installed. Don’t worry about the longevity and upkeep of this type of system – many companies have been offering 50-75 year warranties on the parts of the system that are underground.
Geothermal heat pumps are quiet and very safe. With no exposed parts such as fans that can hurt kids or pets. There is no burning so there is no risk of getting burned or starting a fire. The heating source is the earth, so there is much less to wear out. Geothermal systems are also quiet, which makes sense because the earth is doing the work!
The initial cost for geothermal heat pumps is often made up in three to six years depending on the cost of oil and gas and the temperature fluctuations in your area. You will no longer be subject to the price fluctuations and uncertainty of oil and gas, and you will also reduce your own “carbon footprint” in the process. The resale value of your home will likely rise!
Geothermal systems can either work parallel to your current system or they can completely replace it. Central air conditioning will be an added and immediate benefit of these systems. Contact an experienced geothermal heat pump installer and he or she can tell you exactly what would be involved in installing a geothermal system in (and under!) your home.
The Benefits of Geothermal Heat Pumps
- Geothermal Heat Pumps have no fuels that can catch fire, explode, or corrode piping
- Geothermal Heat Pumps are very safe – there are absolutely no exposed moving or heated parts that could hurt a child or a pet.
- These systems can quietly and effortlessly both heat and air condition your home
- Geothermal Heat Pumps are small – probably smaller (especially if you use oil to heat your house now) than most conventional systems
- There may be tax incentives in the form of rebates and refunds that your state or the federal government will give for the installation of a geothermal system.
- These systems reduce your family’s “carbon footprint” and if they become popular enough will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
- Geothermal Heat Pumps have the added potential of saving you money on your hot water bill because the water is preheated underground.
- Some have been able to get grants to become a “demonstration project” in their area.
- These systems are durable and reliable – many installers are giving 50-75 year warranties on them
While this is not an exhaustive list, you can see that the benefits of geothermal heating are worth at least a phone call to your local installer. He or she should give you a free quote on this “green” form of energy.
The Downside of Geothermal Heat Pumps
Fortunately, there are not too many bad things. The first problem is the costs of these systems. They run 5-10k in equipment and another 5-10k installation costs. Most of this is from drilling or digging involved to put the piping in the ground needed to get the desired temperature both in the summer and winter for your house. Because of these costs, and the marginal savings a payback period of 10-15 years is very common.
Other problems are pumps burning out. This isn’t a huge problem but will cost a little bit of money to fix when it happens. I have not heard of any environmental problems caused by heating up or cooling off the earth around the piping in the ground. This is due to the large amount of pipe that gets buried, the transfer of energy is the very low spread of that distance of pipe.
One last thought is if everyone switched to geothermal heating, there would be a need for a lot of installers for the initial rush of orders, but over a long time period less work, maintenance would lead to fewer jobs in the energy sector. Everyone can safely agree that if there were no more need for power plants, or even only have the current demand there would be a lot of people out of work.