Can’t Take The Heat? Dig Into Geothermal
Home comfort systems are one of the most expensive pieces of equipment running in your house. According to the Energy Information Administration and Move.org, the average monthly cost for electricity is $115, even with EnergyStar-approved traditional HVAC.
These bills add up obviously and, if the HVAC should break during these hot months, costs to repair and replace can make those bills feel even higher. So if you’re thinking about changing from a traditional electric and/or gas-powered HVAC for something a little more economical and environmentally friendly, a geothermal heating and cooling system may be the right choice for you.
Geothermal heat pumps use the earth’s natural temperature to heat and cool your home by using underground coils to transfer energy through a network of coils, known as either an open or closed-loop system, into your home via a traditional duct network. Using the earth’s energy instead of electric or natural gas heat pumps, you could save over 42% annually, not to mention the environmental benefits of using renewable energy that doesn’t release greenhouse gasses like traditional HVAC.
To help you find the best geothermal heat pump and its cost, here is what you need to know before you start digging.
- Property Size & Geology: Before you go shopping and getting quotes on installation, check your property first to make sure you can dig up your yard for the system itself. Depending on the type of loop system, you’ll need at least 6 feet deep for the horizontal and up to 600 feet deep for the vertical. You may also need to have your property analyzed for soil and rock bed to see what type of material necessary to enclose the system and protect it from damage.
- Type of Ground Loop System: If you choose a closed horizontal loop system, it’s more expensive to install than the vertical, closed-loop because of the equipment needed to install the system in the ground. With a horizontal loop, labor and equipment used can be considerably less than the vertical closed-loop system.
Using the earth’s energy instead of electric or natural gas heat pumps, you could save over 42% annually.
- Equipment: When investigating the parts and heat pump related to geothermal heating and cooling systems, you want to look for the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) between 13-18. You also want to see a Coefficient of Performance (COP) between 3-5. You can also look for the EnergyStar label to tell you that the particular heat pump has passed through rigorous government testing for maximum efficiency and energy savings. For a geothermal heat pump to receive the EnergyStar label, it must be 45% more efficient than standard equipment, plus an EER rating of at least 17.1 and a COP of 3.6 minimum for closed-loop systems.
- Home Conditions: The size and output of your geothermal heat pump will depend on the existing square footage, ductwork, and insulation. If your home needs a ductwork retrofit and new insulation, this can drive up the costs. You need to calculate the heat load of your home to help determine what size you’ll need.
Look for the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) between 13-18. You also want to see a Coefficient of Performance (COP) between 3-5.
So what does all this add up to? Installing geothermal heating and cooling can cost as much as $30,000, depending on home size. Larger homes can cost up to $45,000 to install.
However, as daunting as that amount of money sounds now, geothermal heating and cooling can pay itself off in as little as four years, thanks to tax credits and lower energy bills, not to mention consumer demand for more energy-efficient homes. According to EnergyStar.gov and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, geothermal heat pumps installed in 2021 through the end of 2022 are eligible for a 26% tax credit as long as the equipment adheres to the EnergyStar requirements.
You can also check with your mortgage company to see if they offer any additional savings with energy-efficient financing. Local energy companies may also offer incentives and rebates on specific models of geothermal heat pumps. The immediate reduction in your energy costs should show in your bill almost immediately after installing a geothermal heat pump, along with tax and mortgage breaks.
According to the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA), geothermal systems save between 25%-50% of traditional fossil fuel systems per month. Another positive about geothermal heat pump systems is they are relatively low maintenance. A closed-loop system lasts up to 50 years, with the interior heat pump lasting up to 15.
Suppose you can look past the initial sticker shock. In that case, a geothermal system outlasts traditional fossil fuel-based HVAC systems in maintenance, overall energy costs, energy efficiency, quality of comfort, and environmental impact. Digging a little deeper into your yard and investing in geothermal energy at home can lead to much-improved quality of life in the long run.