Geothermal Heatpumps

Will a Geothermal Heating System Work for
Your Home?

Geothermal heatpumps utilize the heat contained in the Earth to produce renewable energy that can heat your home, cool your home, and heat your water. Learn more about how quickly you can recoup your investment on a geothermal heating and cooling system, and which types will work best for your home.

The geothermal heat pump uses a loop system to transfer the heat naturally produced inside the Earth into the home during cold months and transfer hot air out of the home and back into the ground during the hot months of the year.

The heatpump can also be used to heat the water for the home. An additional appliance called a desuperheater transfers the excess heat generated by the heat pump to the hot water tank inside the house. It only heats the water when you need it and when the pump is in operation, so it's extremely efficient.

One of the greatest advantages of a geothermal heating and cooling system is that it does not need non-renewable fossil fuels to create a comfortable living environment within the home.

Types of Heat Pumps that Use Geothermal Energy

There are four basic types of geothermal heatpumps that can be used for either residential or commercial applications.

  • Horizontal Closed-Loop System - requires sufficient land for the four-foot trenches needed to house the loop system. Most often chosen for newly constructed homes.

  • Closed-Loop Systems Using a Pond or Lake - a lower cost option compared to the other three systems. The loops or coils are lowered into the water and anchored at eight feet below the surface in order to maintain proper temperature.

  • Vertical Closed-Loop System - ideal for commercial and school sites where land availability is limited or in areas of shallow soil.

  • Open-Loop System - sites with clean ground water can easily utilize this type of geothermal heat pump. The ground water is used to circulate through the loops in order to provide heat or cool air for the home.

What Type of Heat Pump Should You Choose for
Your Location?

The style of heat pump you choose for your location will depend on three factors:

  • Land availability
  • Amount of ground water or surface water
  • Soil and rock properties

The temperatures inside the Earth remain relatively consistent throughout the year at a certain depth, so pretty much anyone across the country and the world can consider one of the four types of geothermal heat pumps for their home.

The amount of land you have available for your geothermal system will determine whether you install a vertical loop system or a horizontal ground loop system. Vertical loop systems are more compact and work well on sites with limited land. Horizontal systems are most often chosen for new construction given that there is usually plenty of land available at the time of building.

A vertical loop system would work best in areas with a lot of hard rock or dense soil, whereas a horizontal loop system would work well on a site with plenty of loose soil and available land.

Why does ground water play a part in your decision? An open-loop system can be installed on sites that have deeper areas of ground water. Or a closed-loop system can utilize bodies of ground water to camouflage the piping of the system underwater.

It's important to note that prior to making any decisions about the type of system to install, you should consult a professional to survey the site, especially in relation to soil and rock density and the ground water situation on your site.

How Much Do Geothermal Heatpumps Cost?

Geothermal heatpumps are more expensive to install than conventional systems, but can save as much as 70% on heating costs. Cooling costs are lowered by at least 20%, but in some cases, as much as 50%.

Homeowners in the United States should budget roughly between $4,000 and $11,000 for a geothermal system. However, the same system in Canada may cost between $20,000 and $40,000.

The payback period for a geothermal heat pump is between 2 to 10 years, which is a very short time frame considering geothermal heatpumps are warranted to last 25-50 years. Some companies will even tell you that their systems could last up to 200 years! Geothermal technology is still so new that it's not yet possible to pinpoint an exact lifespan.

Tips for Purchase and Installation

The Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium is an excellent resource for locating top-quality geothermal heatpumps for purchase. You can also contact manufacturers directly.

In the U.S., some states offer incentives and rebates for installing this type of heating/cooling system. Check the Database of State Incentives to see what incentives your state may offer.

The installation of a geothermal heat pump is not a DIY project. Contact the IGSHPA, The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association in the United States or the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition in Canada for a list of certified professionals who are trained to install your system properly.

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