Go Green with a Geothermal Heat Pump

By: Brett Freeman , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips, Green Renovations

I suppose that since coal heating, biomass, and pellet stoves have each enjoyed their own post, it’s certainly worth discussing the cleanest, most efficient way to heat and cool your home: Geothermal heat pumps.

Geothermal heating technology is hardly new. Buildings in downtown Boise, Idaho, for example, have been heated with water piped in from nearby hot springs since the 1890s. Over the next century, the geothermal energy industry grew…barely at all. Yes, geothermal energy is clean and sustainable, but that didn’t matter in a world where fossil fuels were cheap and plentiful and the pollution they created was largely ignored. Of course, that’s not the world we live in anymore, and over the past decade increasing numbers of homeowners have opted for clean and efficient geothermal heat pumps to heat and cool their homes.

How Geothermal Heat Pumps Work
Geothermal heat pumps use the heat at the Earth’s core to heat and cool buildings with water-filled pipes installed anywhere from six feet to hundreds of feet underground. These systems don’t bore down deep enough to where temperatures are extreme. In fact, they only go down to where the temperature is stable–and moderate. The water-filled pipes connect to a heat exchanger which, in effect, imports the moderate, comfortable temperature underground into your home. In winter, this means pumping subterranean heat into your house. In summer, it does the opposite, pulling the heat out of your home and sending it underground. Some systems also use waste heat to provide hot water.

Is it Worth Making the Change?
Geothermal heat pumps have numerous advantages over other types of HVAC systems. Most notably, they use 40 to 70 percent less energy with no carbon dioxide emissions or other pollutants, so they are the greenest of the green heating and cooling options. Once installed, they are also the most efficient, resulting in dramatically lower heating and cooling bills. Over the life of the system, they are also the least expensive. And, thanks to the recently passed stimulus bill, installing a geothermal heat pump at your home can cost less than you might think.

The sticking point for most people is the cost. A geothermal heat pump, including the cost of installation, can run well over $10,000, quite a bit more than a conventional HVAC system. Thanks to energy efficiency provisions that were included in the recently enacted stimulus bill, 30 percent of that investment comes back in the form of a tax credit. And if you can afford the initial outlay, making the change is definitely worthwhile. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy, the lifetime cost of a geothermal heat pump system, which includes installation and operating costs, is $5,000 to $23,000 less than other HVAC systems.

Find photos of different types of geothermal heat pump systems at the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Website.


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  1. 7 Responses  to “Go Green with a Geothermal Heat Pump”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    Though the initial cost of installing a geothermal system is a bit higher than a standard older style system, the savings in the long run are well worth it. Using geothermal energy in your residential or commercial property will reduce your carbon footprint, but more importantly, utilize an already existing form of energy to save you dollars over time.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    Great Information, thank you for sharing!!!! We are putting some useful information about geothermal heating pump and some free resources, such as a saving calculator in our website. Check out our website for more information at www.geothermalgenius.org blog www.geothermalgenius.org/blog
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    That is a great article. Thank you for sharing.
  5. Aug 29, 2011
    The tax breaks the government is offering people who are serious about going the 'alternative energy' route is heartening to say the least. 30% back on the whole system adds up to a sizeable chunk. We need to take a deep breath and invest in a geothermal pump because it is, as you say, clean, green and renewable. I'm all for it!
  6. BAFreeman
    Aug 29, 2011
    It is a big and pricey job at the front end, but you will almost certainly save money over time. Installation time can run from a few days to a few weeks, depending on where you live. In some areas, the pipe network can be installed laterally as little as 6 feet underground. In others, you need to drill hundreds of feet deep to find the right temperature, and the pipe network is installed vertically instead of horizontally. The deeper you have to go, the longer and more expensive the installation. The bright side is that the stimulus bill tax credit reimburses 30 percent of installation costs as well as equipment costs.
  7. Brian
    Aug 29, 2011
    april fool's came a day too soon this year
  8. Neil S. Chums
    Aug 29, 2011
    How long does it take to install a geo thermal pump? Seems like it would be a big job and an expensive one (at least up front).