Geothermal Home Heating & Cooling: The Pros and Cons for Homeowners

What Is Geothermal Heating and Cooling? 

Geothermal technology for homes has improved rapidly in recent years. Improved efficiency makes geothermal a much more viable alternative to traditional HVAC systems, including those powered by natural gas, propane, or fuel oil. But are geothermal heat pumps efficient and which system is right for you?

By understanding the various geothermal home heating pros and cons, you can make a more fully informed choice when it comes to upgrading or replacing your current system.

The Basics of Geothermal Heating Systems 

Geothermal heating and cooling pipes are buried on your residential property several feet underground and run into a heat pump inside your home, usually where your HVAC stack is. It works by transferring the solar heat stored belowground via the fluid-filled pipes that travel to your heat pump and is turned into warm, forced air throughout your home

  • In reverse, the heat pump draws heat from your home and directs it underground, efficiently cooling your home during the summer or warm months, for much less than the monthly cost of operating a conventional air conditioner.
  • Geothermal heat pumps are powered by electricity.
  • They replace both your air conditioner and your heating system.
  • They are the most efficient heating/cooling appliance on the market.
  • The buried loops can last 80 years without the need for any maintenance.
  • In most cases, the piping system is placed four feet below ground

The two most common types of geothermal designs are:

Horizontal – Where the underground loops are installed horizontally across a larger surface area..

Vertical – Where the underground loops are inserted straight down into the ground, taking up less surface area.

Both rely on a geothermal heat pump.

It’s worth noting the difference between geothermal heat pumps and air-exchange heat pumps, which harness heat from the air, and are a bit less efficient than geothermal systems. Geothermal heat pumps are 400% efficient. Air-exchange units are 300%. Both also serve to replace your air conditioner as well as your conventional heating system and are both excellent choices for lowering your home’s carbon footprint.

Can You Put Geothermal in an Existing Home? 

Yes, you can install geothermal heating and cooling systems in most existing homes. These systems use the same ductwork as a traditional boiler or other heating systems. The size of your property may dictate whether a horizontal or vertical system is best for you.

Geothermal Home Heating Pros and Cons 

Geothermal energy, like other renewables, offers both tremendous potential and short-term challenges. Every homeowner faces varied factors when choosing a heating or cooling system; here are a few things to consider.

Benefits of Geothermal Heat Pumps 

  1. Significantly lower heating and cooling costs –According to the EPA, geothermal heat pumps use between 25% and 50% less energy than a traditional HVAC system. Many factors impact your energy use and the potential savings of switching to geothermal systems, but you can expect lower energy costs each month for decades. And because they’re powered by electricity, your household is not subject to the rising and often volatile cost of natural gas, propane, or fuel oil.
  2. Lower emissions –Wider adoption of geothermal systems (and air-exchange heat pumps) could reduce carbon emissions in the US and around the globe. Forty percent of all US emissions are generated by residential and commercial heating and cooling. For every 100,000 homes that install geothermal, US greenhouse gas emissions decrease by more than 1.1 million tons.
  3. Longevity, low maintenance – Geothermal systems are not only extremely reliable, they last and last. The ground loop can remain working maintenance-free for 80-100 years, and the heat pump will last 15 years longer than a central air conditioner and up to 10 years longer than a conventional heating system.
  4. Works well in cold climates –The earth’s temperature is nearly constant just a few feet below the surface, no matter how cold it is outside.

Drawbacks of Geothermal Heat Pump Systems 

As beneficial as geothermal systems are, homeowners face at least one major hurdle in adopting the technology.

  1. High upfront cost – While there are local and federal tax credits available, installing geothermal systems is expensive. Most homeowners can expect to pay between $10,000 and $30,000 for installation.
  2. Potential landscaping issue – Also, particularly with horizontal systems, geothermal systems require an earthmoving process that can alter the appearance of your property, at least temporarily.

Invest in Your Home with the Right HVAC System 

Replacing your current HVAC system is a big decision, but it’s not a choice you need to make on your own. Speak with a professional, trained HVAC technician who can provide expert insight into the best plan of action for heating and cooling your home. Get started today; call (800) 893-3523 or request an appointment with your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.