What are Geothermal Heat Pumps?
We are considering the purchase of a geothermal heat pump. How do they compare, are they efficient, are they durable?
- Dave and Toni - Williamson Valley, AZ
Geothermal heat pumps are one of the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling systems available. Geothermal systems, which use the relatively stable and moderate temperatures of the ground as an energy source, are becoming much more main stream as the most efficient and clean alternative to conventional heating and cooling systems.
Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) accounted for about 146,000 residential and commercial installations nationwide in 2010. Yes, that is less than 1% of the overall heating and cooling equipment on the market, however there are forecasts of 9.5% annual growth for this technology through 2030, setting a new bar of roughly 1 million installations by 2030. Consumers would be saving over $400 million dollars per year in energy bills and our greenhouse gases could possibly be reduced by over 1 million tons of carbon every year!
GSHPs are also called geoexchange, or earth-coupled units, earth-energy units and water source heat pumps. They offer some pretty attractive benefits, from far superior heating and cooling efficiencies compared to even the highest-rated furnaces and air conditioners, to the use of a free, nontoxic resource, the stable even heat of the earth to provide heating and cooling. Climates have varying degrees of temperatures from the highest of hot in Death Valley, California, to the lowest of low in Montana and many extremes in between. A few feet below our surface, the ground remains at a relatively consistent temperature and this is the principle behind geothermal heat pump systems. Simply put, in winter these units move heat energy from the ground into your home and in the summer GSHPs take the heat from your home and put it into the ground.
Approximately 70% of the energy used for GSHPs is considered renewal energy all from the ground. These systems are a little more expensive to install than regular heating systems, however, with that being said, GSHPs are typically four to five times as efficient in heating mode and at least 50% better in cooling mode than a standard furnace and air conditioner, respectively.
GSHPs are now rated as an Energy Star product. They are mechanically simple and since the outside components of the system are installed below ground and protected, maintenance costs are often lower so there are many advantages to this type of heating/cooking system. The installation process has several phases and considerations such as drilling and this cost figure will vary depending on the lot, the flora/landscape features, the terrain and removal of your current system with the exception of the ductwork. Depending of various cost factors, and the cost savings on your energy bill, one can expect to recoup the expenses anywhere from 3 to 10 years.
GSHPs are extremely durable and seldom require maintenance and life spans have been indicated to be 25-30 years. They work by absorbing heat from the earth during the heating mode via thermal conductivity and merely give up the heat to the earth in the cooling mode.
GSHPs offer evident and noticeable lower energy bills and studies have indicated that the cost savings is approximately 40-70 percent lower than standard bills. GSHPs are becoming more well-known and accepted and documented as one of the most efficient heating and cooling systems available today.