Pros and Cons of Geothermal Heating Systems in Residential Use
Many homeowners are finding themselves exploring the pros and cons of geothermal heating systems in residential use. Geothermal technology continues to evolve and not only has it become more affordable, the tax breaks for Geothermal cannot be ignored. Geothermal Heating Systems are quickly becoming a viable option for more and more homes.
In this Geothermal Buying Guide, we summarize the strengths and weaknesses of geothermal heating systems so you can use the information to consider geothermal energy for yourself.
Pros of Geothermal
The majority of people who choose geothermal energy for their homes are motivated by the desire to lower their energy consumption, make their home more energy efficient and gain control over their utility bills. A home’s heating and air conditioning typically accounts for 40% to 50% of the energy use in the home. Installing a geothermal heat pump system or hydronic system can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 70% when replacing a conventional HVAC system.
More of us are concerned about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in order to reduce the negative impact of our lifestyle on the environment. It is important to understand how geothermal heating and cooling systems work by using electricity to tap into geothermal energy, a renewable resource, thus dramatically lowering the use of fossil fuels. The 70% decrease in energy use means 70% fewer carbon emissions.
Heating and Cooling Options
You’ve got more flexibility with current geothermal heating and cooling systems than was once available. Package units, split systems, dual fuel systems and hydronic systems are all available to meet your purposes and the installation requirements of your home.
Today’s geothermal heating and cooling systems have a good track record of reliability. They have very few moving parts compared with conventional HVAC systems. The HDPE loop material is rated to last for 100+ years and usually carries a warranty of 25-50 years. The condensing unit and other geothermal energy equipment should last 20+ years with proper maintenance.
Modern geothermal cooling and heating systems provide outstanding climate control. Geothermal heat pumps are made with 2-stage compressors and variable-speed blower fans. The result is very balanced temperatures with little fluctuation, better control of humidity, and better air filtration. In addition, the range of accessories include humidifiers, home ventilators, electronic air filters, air purifiers and more.
Current Tax Incentives and Utility Rebates
Federal and state governments are offering large geothermal tax credits on the installation of geothermal energy equipment that meets Energy Star requirements. The federal tax credit is 30% of your total costs. Many state tax credits are equal to that or higher. Utilities across the country are offering rebate programs as well.
Geothermal systems use no flame and produce no dangerous exhaust gases such as deadly carbon monoxide.
Cons of Geothermal
Higher Initial Cost
The part of the geo thermal heating system that is installed underground or in water is known as the loop. The installation of the loop is very expensive, with labor prices making up most of the price for the loop. A typical geothermal cooling and heating system may cost 2-3 times as much as a conventional HVAC system. The fact that it reduces utility bills by up to 70% means that it will pay you back for the extra cost in 10-15 years. Your next system won’t require a new loop, so your second geothermal energy system will be a tremendous value.
Higher Repair Prices
If the loop develops a leak or is broken, it has to be dug up to repair it. If the system is beyond its warranty, that will be expensive. Fortunately, it rarely happens.
Most systems are installed by geothermal contractors, not the neighborhood heating and cooling company. Some areas don’t have enough qualified geothermal contractors to meet current demand, but that is changing. Depending on where you live, you may have some difficulty in finding a qualified geothermal energy contractor with good experience.
If you choose an open loop system, which is the most efficient type of geothermal heating and cooling system, a separate well may have to be dug to supply it with water for heating and cooling. In some areas, where wells are deep, that adds considerably to the cost and a closed loop or pond system will be a better choice.
Summary of Pros and Cons
For most homeowners considering the installation of a geothermal energy system, the issue boils down to less energy use and lower utility bills vs. the higher cost of the initial investment. How you choose will depend upon whether you intend to live in the house long-term, your commitment to green energy, your budget and your goals for keeping your utility costs in check. This geothermal guide spells out the pros and cons of geothermal heating and cooling systems in residential use and should clarify some of the key issues for you.