Over the last decade or so, there has been a widespread movement toward more sustainable and renewable methods of doing just about everything. Whether it is the production of electricity or the heating and cooling of homes, people are waking up to the benefits of non-fossil fuel-based solutions. For some, it is an environmental matter, for others, it is an issue of cost. Mounting energy prices have caused many to reconsider less traditional options.
Geothermal heat pumps have been around for well over 50 years, but for much of that time, they have failed to capture the interest of the average person because there simply weren’t compelling reasons to look beyond the more traditional methods of heating and cooling their homes and businesses. Times have clearly changed. Now, it would seem, it is time to take a second look at geothermal heating pumps.
To put it simply, geothermal heat pumps are a system of pipes laid out under the ground at a level that allows them to take advantage of the constant temperatures of the ground below a certain depth. These pipes contain a medium, usually water or a mixture of anti-freeze and water, that takes on the constant temperature of the ground and is then pumped into a distribution system within the home and dispersed through the house to either heat or cool it.
During the winter months, the air above ground is naturally much colder than the temperature below ground and vice versa in the summer. When a liquid medium is circulated through a series of pipes below ground, it takes on the temperature surrounding it.
This medium is then pumped indoors to a heat exchange unit where the pipes pass through a bath of refrigerant that begins to boil into steam, after which it is concentrated in a compression chamber. Compressing this heated air causes its temperature to rise further.
After this air has reached the desired temperature, it is then pumped into a second thermal exchange chamber where it can then be distributed throughout the home to heat the air or even provide for the household’s hot water needs.
As the air is cooled, it turns back into a liquid which is then pumped back into the underground system to go through the whole cycle again. The result is fairly incredible; For each kilowatt of energy used by the system, 4 kilowatts of energy are produced, effectively quartering the cost per kilowatt-hour!
It should be noted that this same process is equally efficient for cooling a home during the summer months using the same process and equipment.
The savings provided by geothermal pumps all boil down to three things, efficiency, low maintenance costs, and low operational costs. Each of these factors bears closer examination:
Traditional air-based heating and cooling systems rely on the unit’s ability to heat or cool air. That’s obvious. The problem with this is that the air is never at a stable temperature. Air is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer which means the heating or cooling unit is already starting off at a disadvantage. You have to expend more energy to heat cold air or to cool hot air than you do by starting off at a stable temperature somewhere in between. All that extra energy translates into money spent.Depending on a number of factors, geothermal pumps provide heating at a rate of up to 3/4 of the cost of traditional heating systems and cooling at a rate of 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of traditional air conditioners.A 1,500 square foot home that has been equipped with a geothermal pump can reasonably expect to pay $30-$50 per month in heating and cooling costs. When you factor in the availability of hot water that is virtually free, the savings through efficiency are even more apparent.Another way in which geothermal pumps are more efficient is that they are both a heating and cooling unit wrapped up into one. This saves you the trouble and cost of installing and maintaining two separate units that perform the work of one geothermal pump.
Geothermal pump systems have very few moving parts and are completely shielded from environmental factors that can damage traditional HVAC systems. This means they are incredibly unlikely to break down and are far less likely to incur repair costs.Outside of the minimal maintenance on the fans and filters of the forced air units that push the air through the home and the minimal management of sediment in the water loop of open-loop systems, there is very little to worry about.The fact that the system is contained entirely underground or within the structure of the home means that you don’t have to worry about the wear and tear associated with an external condenser Things like dirt, leaves, and vandalism will never be a concern.
Many state, local, and federal subsidies exist that reward the homeowner who invests in renewable energy. One of the best ways to find out more about these programs would be to consult with a local contractor who works with geothermal heat pumps. They will most likely have some informational resources at their disposal that will answer your questions or, at least, be able to direct you to a government entity that can answer any questions you might have.
Some utility companies and other interested third-parties offer the option of paying for the installation of a geothermal pump system on your property that you then pay to lease at a rate lower than your current energy costs. This is an excellent solution for homeowners for whom the initial buy-in price of a geothermal pump is simply out of reach.
Another major consideration that needs to be taken into account is the installation process. The process of installing a geothermal pump in your home is quite complicated and definitely should be performed by an experienced professional. It can also be quite intrusive in the case of retrofitting existing homes, especially where radiant floor heating is being installed.
Whether it is a retrofit or a new build, the ground around the site is going to have to be extensively dug up to accommodate the pipe array. This will mean it will have to be re-landscaped afterward, and any landscaping features already present will probably need to be moved or destroyed.
When all is said and done, geothermal heat pumps are easily one of the greenest, most efficient, and cost-effective methods of heating or cooling a home that is available on the market today and it’s no surprise that they are finally coming into more common use after over 50 years on the sidelines.
Walker ClimateCare’s strict hiring process helps guarantee we are staffed only by the most qualified, professional and experienced individuals – individuals with a commitment to customer satisfaction and building lifelong relationships. If you’re interested in switching to geothermal heating solutions for your home, request a quote and see why we’re your choice for quality home heating systems today.
Contact us to find out how our geothermal systems can start reducing your energy use today.