Geothermal Heating and Cooling – Why should I consider it?
The idea behind geothermal energy is simple. The earth stores a vast reservoir of thermal energy (which is constantly re-supplied by the sun), typically 10 times that required over an entire heating season. A geothermal system simply transfers heat from the earth to the home in the winter and from the home back to the earth in the summer. The earth stays at a more constant temperature than widely varying air temperatures. And because heat energy is being moved, and not created, geothermal systems operate at higher efficiencies than ordinary heating and cooling systems.
Geothermal technology is environmentally advantageous. These systems can help curb environmental concerns such as acid rain, global warming and ozone depletion (which are directly linked to fossil fuel burning) by using natural energy removed from the earth instead of energy that must be artificially produced, generated and transported. Geothermal systems do not contain any chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the loop solution (which are suspected to be a major cause of ozone depletion), use far less refrigerant in the unit than ordinary heat pumps or air conditioners, and are factory-sealed to prevent leakage.
According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency:
- Geothermal heat pumps are the most cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally clean heating and cooling system available in the United States.
- Geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption and corresponding emissions by more than 40% compared to air source heat pumps and by more than 70% compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment. Combining geothermal with other energy efficient measures, such as window or insulation upgrades, can increase the savings even further.
- Replacing an HVAC system with a geothermal system will reduce the amount of pollution equivalent to not driving your car 140,000 miles.
- Replacing an ordinary HVAC system with a geothermal system is the equivalent of planting 750 trees, or three-quarters of an acre of rain forest.
- The average house contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than the average car.
- The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that if geothermal heat pumps were installed nationwide, they could save several billion dollars annually in energy costs and substantially reduce pollution.
HUD and USDA have joined forces to support geothermal technology. Section 3013 of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 defines a goal to “... encourage states, municipalities, counties and townships to consider allowing the installation of geothermal heat pumps ...”
Currently, nine percent of the United States' total energy consumption is for residential heating and cooling. Many utility companies are counting on geothermal heat pumps to reduce peak electric demand and lessen environmental pressures stemming from ordinary heating and cooling systems. Use of geothermal systems also helps eliminate power peaks that cause brownouts. By flattening out power peaks, electric companies will need to build fewer power plants, thereby decreasing air pollution.
Geothermal heating and cooling systems are at least three times more efficient than fossil fuel systems. In energy consumption, WaterFurnace systems use on average:
- 75% less primary energy than oil
- 48% less primary energy than natural gas
- 33% less primary energy than air-source heat pumps
- 33% of the refrigerant required by air-source heat pumps and central air conditioners
Today, more than 650,000 geothermal heat pumps are installed in the United States, resulting in an annual savings of 5.2 billion kWh, 26 trillion BTUs of fossil fuels and reduced electricity demand of 1.7 million kW. These systems are the equivalent of:
- Taking 840,000 cars off the road
- Planting 250 million trees
- The elimination of nearly four million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere
- Saving 14 million barrels a year of crude oil
Surveys of geothermal users conducted by the Department of Energy and utility companies nationwide indicate a higher level of consumer satisfaction for geothermal heat pumps than for ordinary systems and report that:
- 99% would recommend the system to family and friends
- 95% said overall operation met or exceeded their expectations
- 94% said they would buy a geothermal system again
Top reasons consumers select geothermal systems:
- Cost effective - savings on monthly bills of 30-70% in heating mode and 20-50% in the cooling mode
- Comfortable - constant, even comfort with no hot or cold spots
- Safe and clean - no flame, no flue, no odors; just safe, reliable operation year after year
- Quiet - no noisy outdoor compressor
- Versatile - compatible with nearly any home or business, regardless of terrain or weather conditions. Environmentally friendly-emits no CO2, a major contributor to indoor and outdoor air pollutions
- The elimination of outdoor or rooftop units means the system is not exposed to temperature extremes, dirt, pollution or vandalism
- Geothermal systems have a lower life-cycle cost than ordinary systems, even in hot, humid regions where the demand for air conditioning is high. Geothermal systems have long equipment life (20 years and more)