GEOTHERMAL - A major source of energy is right und

GEOTHERMAL - A major source of energy is right under your feet.

FORT WAYNE, IN - Homeowners using natural gas to heat their homes can expect to dig a little deeper into their pockets to pay their heating bills this winter. According to the Department of Energy, heating bills for natural gas users are expected to be up to 60% higher this winter than last year. Oil in not expected to be any cheaper.

Utility companies are already sending warnings to customers about how prices have doubled since last year, forcing rate boosts. Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) is informing customers to plan on increases of 50 to 60% in their natural gas bills in December, January and February compared to the same months last heating season.

Citizens Gas & Coke Utility, which serves more than 250,000 households in the Indianapolis area, has reported that beginning in September, an average residential heating customer can expect to see a price increase of about 24%. Citizens predicts customer bills are likely to climb an extra $30 a month in December, January and February, compared to last winter.

The DOE's Energy Information Administration claims the skyrocketing prices are due to fall off in production, short supplies and high demand by industry and electric utilities.

As natural gas and propane users are starting to feel the cold reality of higher fuel costs, homeowners using nature's free energy are resting comfortably. That's because they're taking advantage of the geothermal energy found in their own back yards. This method of heating, cooling and providing hot water offers homeowners better comfort, unmatched energy efficiency, and lower monthly utility bills. In fact, geothermal heating and cooling systems have proven to operate up to four times more efficiently than traditional systems. The Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory reports geothermal systems can produce savings of $300 to $1000 per year in an average home over conventional gas, oil, propane, electric resistance or air-to-air heat pumps.

WaterFurnace International, headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is one of the largest manufacturers of geothermal heating and cooling systems in North America. Their energy efficient product line of geothermal systems has proven to save homeowners up to 60% on monthly utility bills over conventional systems-an eye-opening alternative that's getting even more recognition due to the rising utility rates.

In addition, these systems are environmentally-friendly and provide safe, reliable year-round comfort without flames, fumes or a threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Unlike traditional heating systems that generate heat by burning our limited supplies of fossil fuels, geothermal systems tap into an unlimited source of renewable underground energy and simply transfer that energy from one point to another-from the earth to the home in winter and from the home to the earth in summer. Their ability to move heat, instead of creating it, helps curb environmental concerns like acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion and other environmental problems directly linked to the burning of fossil fuels.

No matter where you live, the underground temperatures stay relatively constant year-round. Every home is literally sitting on its own energy source. Geothermal systems work by moving the stored underground heat energy using a series of fluid-filled pipes either buried in the ground, sunk in a pond, or used in a well. The solution in the pipes absorbs the warm, free energy of the earth and carries it to the geothermal unit, which compresses the extracted warmth to a high temperature and delivers it to the home. For cooling, the process is reversed, resulting in cool, dehumidified air. Only a small amount of electricity is necessary to capture the endless supply of free energy, keeping operating costs low.

Geothermal systems can also be used to produce hot water for domestic use or for radiant floor heating systems, ice melt, swimming pools and hot tubs to further add to your monthly savings costs.

Other advantages include its quiet operation, durability and reliability. They don't require the use of outside condensing units and because they have fewer mechanical components, which are sheltered from the harsh outdoor elements, they provide long-lasting and worry-free operation.

Electric utility companies often offer rebates or special electric rate programs to homeowners to help promote the use of this energy-efficient and enviro-friendly technology.

For more information on how the high performance, high efficiency geothermal heating and cooling system compares to the rising utility costs associated with natural gas and propane, call 1-800-457-4554