Geothermal Heating: Efficient Home Heating & Cooling Systems

drawing of horizontal closed loop geoethermal well system

Whether you are building a custom home or completely renovating an existing one, you may be wondering about how to heat and cool your home. You want the best method that will give every room the right conditioned air. Yet you don't want to spend huge amounts of money on utility bills. Also, you want a more efficient heating and cooling system that doesn't significantly impact the environment.

One solution that more homeowners are turning to is geothermal heating. Geothermal heating relies on the constant temperatures located below the ground to provide the optimal conditioned air and water heating benefits to your home.

What is Geothermal Heating?

Geothermal heating systems have been in use since about the 1940s. The basic premise of the system is that it doesn't rely on the fluctuating changes of the outdoor air temperature to heat or cool a home. With a heat exchange pump, and pipes installed by a geothermal drilling company, the system is placed several feet below the earth.

The ground temperatures at many latitudes stay within the range of 45 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So when the outdoor air temperatures drop, the ground temperature is warmer. Pipes filled with water or an antifreeze solution are located underground as it pulls the heat from out of the earth. Then, a geothermal heat exchanger will pull the heat from the water and push it into the air handler unit inside the home. The air handler will then use this heat to warm the air throughout each room. In addition, the geothermal heating system can also be used in the same method to cool a home during the hot summers, as well as to heat water that is used in showers and sinks.

Geothermal heating systems can come in two different systems: closed-loop units and open-loop units. A closed-loop system has a heat exchanger as it transfers the heat between the pipe work and the heat pump. An open-loop system will use a water source -- either well water or surface water -- as the heat exchange fluid. This water is circulated through the geothermal system.


The Benefits of Geothermal Heating

There are numerous benefits for homeowners when they use geothermal heating in their home. Geothermal heating units use less electricity than regular electric furnaces and air conditioners. So your home is consuming less energy from the utility company's electrical grid. This aspect provides a wealth of environment advantages when you are lowering your carbon footprint and energy waste with your heating and cooling systems. You can also enjoy the cost-savings with this unit as your systems will use less natural gas energy.

Other benefits you can find with geothermal heating methods include the lengthy lifespan of the system, as well as quieter operation of the mechanical systems. There are normally no fans located in the system, and so you can hardly hear any noise coming from it when the equipment is turned on. Also, there is no equipment that is set up outside your home, such as a central air unit. You won't disturb the neighbours with this heating and cooling system.

As for longevity, geothermal heating systems can last for decades. Many systems come with a 50-year warranty for the underground pipes. With regular maintenance, you will have a reliable heating and cooling system that will last much longer than a traditional furnace, air conditioner or central air system.

How Much Does a Geothermal System Cost?

Initial installation costs will depend on the type and size of the system you plan to install. It can cost anywhere from $5,000 up to $20,000 or more for the installation. You can save on costs if you are getting a retrofit, since the ductwork will already be installed in the house and all you will need is to have geothermal drilling done to the property to install the pipe work. In addition, there are federal tax incentives, and some utilities are also offering low-interest loans to homeowners to entice them to make the switch.

Having an evaluation regarding the heating and cooling needs for your home can allow you to figure out if a geothermal heating system is right for your needs. At that point you can compare the initial cost of installation to the long-term savings of having a heating and cooling system that requires less maintenance and potentially lasts for 3-4 times longer than traditional heating and cooling systems.