The Pros and Cons of Geothermal Heat Pumps in the Greencastle Indiana Market
If you’re considering a geothermal heating and cooling system (also called a ground source or water source heat pump) you’ve probably heard some of the key points that are floating around in cyberspace. They’re still a minor blip in the HVAC world – only about 50,000 installations per year, as opposed to over 1,000,000 of the more common HVAC systems like air-sourced heat pumps and central air conditioners – but growing in popularity very quickly.
As potential owners learn about the dramatically increased performance, efficiency, and eco-friendliness of geothermal heating and cooliong, the companies who sell and install these systems are fielding more and more questions.
A geothermal heat pump uses a “ground loop,” which is a substantial loop of pipe filled with liquid. It uses the fact that below the surface of the earth, the ground remains a fairly constant temperature. That makes the temperature exchange by which a heat pump cools or heats your home much less strenuous to effect. Because of the growing interest in geothermal energy, customer inquiries are common.
In the interest of transparency, we are assembling here a Pros and Cons list for people who only want the full story. Fair warning, though – the Cons list is going to be a lot shorter than the Pros list, and probably very situational. Geothermal heating is uncommonly good technology, and finding points against it requires a little creative thought.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Environmentally friendly. Particularly compared to existing heaters such as gas or oil furnaces, a geothermal heat pump is an ecologically sound investment. They do not use any non-renewable resources or burn fossil fuels to produce heat. They emit far, far fewer greenhouse gasses.
They also do not produce carbon monoxide. It has been estimated that over a period of 20 years, using geothermal heating reduces greenhouse gas emissions with staggering results. To equal that reduction, 58,000 cars would have to be retired from American highways, or someone would have to plant nearly 200 square miles of new forest.
Even when you take into account their electricity usage and the associated power plant emissions, it’s hard to find a greener way to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home.
Energy efficient. Geothermal heating uses electricity very wisely. It is much easier to move heat around than it is to generate it, and that is the principle all heat pumps work on. However, unlike air-sourced heat pumps, a geothermal heat pump isn’t hamstrung by temperature extremes.
They are twice as effective as an air-sourced heat pump on a hot day, and anywhere from 50%-300% more efficient than the best furnaces on the market. That efficiency translates to less usage, and we’ll get to that in a little bit.
Minimal disturbance of your landscaping. While the installation process is pretty dramatic, once the ground loop is installed, there really isn’t much to see. The bulk of the geothermal heat pump apparatus is buried beneath the ground. There is no outdoor unit like you’d find with an air-sourced heat pump or central air conditioner.
Safe to operate. The main ingredient in a geothermal system is the liquid flowing through your loop of pipes below the earth. The earth naturally maintains that liquid at approximately fifty degrees Fahrenheit. The heat pump draws on that heat in the winter and sends it into your home, or removes heat from your home and directs it into the loop in the summer.
Because it isn’t using fossil fuels or any kind of combustion to heat, you have zero risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or the other hazards of furnaces. And because there is no outdoor unit exposed to the elements, the risk of weathering or damage to the system is minimal.
Less expensive to operate. The annual cost of operation for a geothermal heat pump is distinctly less than conventional heating and cool systems. They free you entirely from a gas bill unless you use a gas-powered stove or water heater. On average, you’re looking at a 30-60% reduction in your heating costs and a 25-50% reduction in your cooling costs. Imagine that!
We had to get to these, of course, and we’re not going to pretend that there is nothing about a geothermal heat pump that might dissuade some folks from choosing to purchase one. However, we believe that most or all of the items mentioned below are surmountable, or may not apply to your situation.
The elephant in the room is high installation costs. This is the biggest “con” anyone will be able to bring up. There is no getting around the fact that geothermal heat pumps are pricier than their air-sourced cousins. Part of that is because the installation is very involved. It typically requires excavation of trenches to bury the pipe for the ground loop of liquid, and a longer installation process than a more conventional product.
Less suitable for older homes. Older homes and historic homes might be unwilling to allow the kind of digging required for a geothermal heat pump. They’re most easily installed during a new home build. Installing a geothermal unit after the fact will necessitate some landscaping expenses.
More difficult to find. There is less demand for geothermal heat pumps than for air-sourced heat pumps and central air conditioners. Because of that, it can sometimes be tricky to track down a qualified and reputable installer.
It also means that there is less competition to drive down prices, and so there are companies out there who charge excessive prices, knowing their customers have little choice. (Fortunately, you’re on our website already, and you don’t have to deal with a company like that!)
Give us a call today at 765-653-8802 and ask whether a ground source heat pump is right for your home.
ROYAL COMFORT HEATING & AIR SERVES GREENCASTLE, DANVILLE, BAINBRIDGE, CLOVERDALE, FILLMORE, COATSVILLE, PLAINFIELD, AVON, MONROVIA & STILESVILLE.