Geothermal Heating & Cooling
Geothermal heating & cooling systems are a lesser known option to keep your home comfortable in extreme seasonal temperatures. Have you ever noticed how it takes the ground and bodies of water longer to warm up after a cold winter and longer to cool down after a hot summer? Geothermal heating and cooling takes advantage of this law of physics to provide a more efficient heat pump! Traditional heat pumps do basically just as their name implies: transfer/pump heat to or from your house, depending on the season. This is a great idea because it takes a lot less energy to move heat than it does to create it like a traditional gas or electric furnace. Traditional heat pumps transfer heat from the air which works well until the temperature drops below 40 degrees in the winter, which reduces their efficiency. Geothermal heat pumps stay effective even in very low or high temperatures because the ground temperature stays a lot more moderate. So the physics makes sense, but let’s take a look at the practical side of installation and upkeep.
A moderate climate is better for geothermal pumps, but any temperature above -40 degrees is sufficient for operation. This gives quite a lot more variance than a normal heat pump which loses efficiency around 40 degrees! You will need to have adequate ground area to bury the coils: For a vertical system, depending on how many tons your unit is, you will need a trench up to 400 feet down and 54 feet wide. For a horizontal system, you may need up to 590 feet surface space and 6 feet deep. Another geothermal option is to use a nearby body of water like a pond or a lake, though it must meet requirements pertaining to depth and water quality.
Find a licensed installer through the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association website (click here for a list of certified installers in South Carolina) or the Geothermal Exchange Organization (click here for a list of installers near Anderson, SC). Be prepared for excavation and drilling on your property by first checking that the drilling area is free from any buried lines or pipes. The average cost of a geothermal heat pump (according to the US Dept. of Energy) is $2,500 per ton…which means for an average home needing a 3-ton unit the cost would be $7,500. Though that is more than the average traditional heating and cooling system, you may find some rebates or incentives that will lower the initial cost, as well as understanding that the energy savings over time due to high efficiency also off-set the up-front cost.
Life-time & Upkeep
Heat pumps themselves will last on average 20 years, while the buried piping will last longer: between 25-50 years. This is great in comparison to the average furnace or air conditioning unit which has an average lifespan of 12-15 years. The indoor units are typically installed in the basement and route air throughout the home via ducts. These units are usually very accessible and therefore easy to keep maintained throughout the year. There are no outdoor compressors so noise and vandalism aren’t a concern as with traditional heating and cooling systems.
Advantages vs. disadvantages:
Long-term operation savings due to high-efficiency, environmental friendliness, and system longevity are the main advantages of a geothermal heating and cooling system. Up-front costs, disturbance to property, and risk of installation errors (resulting in expensive excavation and fixes) are among the disadvantages to a geothermal system. You can check out more advantages and disadvantages here.
Are you interested in how a geothermal system might be beneficial to you? Call us for a personal estimate and more general information on this unique heating and cooling solution!