Geothermal Heat Pumps | Heating and Air Conditioning
You hear a lot about geothermal heat pumps both good and bad. What is a homeowner to believe in the face of conflicting information? For those homeowners desiring to save significantly on energy costs for heating and air conditioning, and/or for those who are environmentally conscious, the geothermal heat pump provides a promising alternative. Let’s have a look at the facts to assist you in deciding whether or not a geothermal system is right for your household:
- It has been estimated that greater than 1 million residential geothermal heat pumps are currently installed in the United States
- Over 60,000 geothermal heat pumps are installed in the United States each year, with an estimated annual growth rate of 20%. Each year, more households make the decision to invest in a geothermal system when building a new home and replacing an existing heating and air conditioning system.
Geothermal heat pumps currently in use have resulted in some impressive statistics:
- 40 trillion BTUs of fossil fuels saved each year
- The elimination of 1.6 million metric tons of carbon equivalent annually
- 8 million kWh saved each year
- The elimination of over 5.8 million metric tons of CO2 each year
- Reducing electricity usage by 2.6 million kW each year
The current number of geothermal heat pumps in service today is equivalent to:
- Planting over 385 million trees
- Reduced consumption of foreign fuels by 21.5 million barrels of crude oil annually
- Removing 1,295,000 cars from the road
- Geothermal systems save up to 70% on heating bills and 40% on air conditioning costs when compared to conventional heating and air conditioning
- The cost per Btu of heating is significantly lower for geothermal heat pumps when compared to other heating options
How it Works
A geothermal heat pump uses the constant temperature underground as an exchange medium to heat and cool a home throughout the year. A few feet down, the earth’s temperature is relatively constant at 45 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit, year round.
Geothermal heat pump systems take advantage of this by circulating water or other liquids through continuous loops of plastic or metal pipes buried in the ground. The fluid collects heat from the soil during winter and carries it through the system to a heat pump in the building, where the heat is compressed to produce more heat warming air to 90 to 105 degrees. The warm air is moved through the house via standard ductwork, or an under-floor radiant system. This forms a closed-loop system. During the summer, a reverse process occurs as circulating fluids transfer heat from the building back into the earth.
A geothermal system may also use an open-loop option utilizing well or surface water as the exchange liquid, which is returned to the source. Geothermal heat pumps provide the additional benefit of providing the home with hot water.
Installation Considerations and Maintenance
- Proper installation is crucial: The geothermal system’s reliability depends upon professional installation. Use a reputable heating and air conditioning company with experience in geothermal installation, check their references and BBB status. The cost of failing to do so can result in poor reliability and efficiency. The indoor components of your geothermal system are not entirely dissimilar to a standard heat pump. The geothermal system will require an air handler and ductwork. The outdoor components require careful installation based on the geography of your yard. As with any heating and air conditioning system, the geothermal system size must match the home to prevent short cycling and premature wear on components. A geothermal system is only as good as the skills, experience and knowledge of the installer.
- Antifreeze or other fluid level: The liquid medium that circulates throughout the underground loops has to be at a specific level for the system to work properly. As it circulates throughout the earth loop, it absorbs and dissipates thermal energy, depending on the season. If a leak occurs or an incorrect amount was added during installation, the geothermal system will be unable to heat and cool effectively or efficiently. During routine maintenance, your HVAC technician can check to ensure that the fluid level is correct, and not leaking.
- Dirt and debris: As it can with any heating and air conditioning system, dirt and debris can damage any of the indoor components of the geothermal system, from the heat exchanger to the blower motor. During maintenance, the technician can provide the required cleaning to ensure the efficiency and longevity of the system.
- Air ducts: As with any heating and air conditioning system, the geothermal system relies on the cleanliness and integrity of the air ducts. If the air ducts that distribute the conditioned air throughout the home are leaking due to broken seals or damaged, the geothermal system will not be able to maintain a comfortable home.
- Loops: There are a variety of loop designs available for geothermal systems. The one that is right for your system depends upon a number of factors, best determined by a thoroughly qualified geothermal expert. The loops should not require maintenance. Maintenance ensures the pipes are not leaking or in need of repair.
While geothermal maintenance is minimal when compared to other heating and air conditioning systems, some maintenance is necessary to ensure that the system provides the energy efficiency and home comfort it is popular for.
The initial cost of a geothermal system and installation are higher than for conventional heating and air conditioning systems, in part due to the required excavation of the earth for the loop system. However, the difference is usually returned in energy savings in 2 to 10 years, depending upon where you live, and the cost you would pay for energy use in a traditional system.
When federal, state and utility tax credits and incentives are considered, the return on your investment may be significantly reduced depending upon the programs available for your location. Geothermal heat pump systems typically last an estimated 25 years for the inside components with a life expectancy of 50 years for the ground loop.
Cypress Heating and Air Conditioning’s certified and experienced HVAC technicians offer the expertise required for the proper installation of a geothermal heat pump system. When you require a new heating and air conditioning installation for home or office schedule an appointment with our expert technicians. We service Katy, Plano and the surrounding areas.