What's Hot About Geothermal Heating And Cooling?

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Last Wednesday we took note of 5 Ways To Prepare Your HVAC System For Winter. Curating those tips brought up some interesting conversation about HVAC systems in general. The primary points of discussion though were the idea of traditional (fossil-fuel powered) HVAC systems versus Geothermal systems. It seems the domestic use of geothermal energy began around 2005 when The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed into law. It changed the U.S. energy policy by providing tax incentives and loan guarantees for various types of energy production. It included provisions aimed at making geothermal energy more competitive with fossil fuels in generating electricity. In fact, as of 2004, there have been more than a million geothermal units installed worldwide providing 12 GW of thermal capacity. Each year, about 80,000 units are installed in the US alone. But that is not the beginning of this new [heat] wave of heating and cooling.

MODERN AGE

Even though archaeological evidence shows that the first human use of geothermal resources in North America occurred more than 10,000 years ago, there are more modern examples. As European settlers moved westward across the continent, they gravitated toward springs of warmth and vitality. In 1807, settlers founded the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, where, in 1830, Asa Thompson charged one dollar each for the use of three spring-fed baths in a wooden tub, and the first known commercial use of geothermal energy occurred. Akin to the comfort and luxury of a modern hot tub, geothermal energy warmed the Hot Springs water. The energy originates from the heat retained within the Earth since the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. It really is a very simple idea that has since been harnessed into an HVAC system that makes use of a geothermal heat pump or ground source heat pump (GSHP) that transfers heat to or from the ground, without any intermittency. In essence, the pump acts as a heat source (in the winter) or a heat sink (in the summer). But what makes these systems differ from traditional furnaces and air conditioners? Let’s take a look at some of the differences between geothermal and traditional heating and cooling options.

FUNCTION

Geothermal systems can offer space heating, space cooling, and water heating from a single system. Geothermal heat pumps usually have no outdoor compressors or cooling towers whereas, with traditional HVAC systems, a furnace is used for heating and an air conditioner for cooling. Add to it a water heater that acts separately to provide hot water throughout your home. With these various systems come multiple moving parts that require regular maintenance. Geothermal systems have fewer components which mean fewer parts and less overall maintenance.

INVESTMENT

As with most home sustainability features, geothermal heating and cooling systems are more expensive to install than traditional heating and cooling systems. This is largely because of the ground loop component that has to be installed in order to absorb and transfer ground heat below the soil. Until Dec. 31, 2015, the state of North Carolina offered a 35% North Carolina State Tax Credit for the installation of a geothermal solution.  Unfortunately, that credit has expired. However, there are a number of rebate and loan programs still in operation in order to help you install a new geothermal system in your home.

While more expensive to install, geothermal heating and cooling systems are less expensive to operate than traditional HVAC systems. They are more efficient than their fossil-fuel counterparts. The lower operating costs generate a rather quick ROI (return-on-investment). Homeowners typically recoup their investment in less than five years!

In short, geothermal energy is a type of renewable energy that encourages conservation of natural resources. Homeowners can save 30–70 percent in heating costs, and 20–50 percent in cooling costs, compared to conventional HVAC systems. It is a great way to save money and stay comfortable.

Are you ready to begin planning your custom home at River Landing? Do you want to include geothermal heating and cooling as well as other incredible features? Visit us online, join our Facebook group, or email us directly.

Editor's Note: Some research facts courtesy of energy.gov

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