While geothermal heating and cooling has been around for quite a while, it still isn’t very popular. It is expensive, but not prohibitively so, and it is extremely efficient once it is installed. If you are avoiding geothermal because of one of these myths, think again.
It Won’t Work in the Winter
Heat pumps get a bad reputation in Northern climates because the colder the air gets, the less efficient the heat pump becomes. This means that the heat pump will be basically useless during the times that you need it the most. Because geothermal heat pumps are less common, they get lumped in with their topside cousins.
Geothermal heat pumps mechanically work the same way, but the resource they use is very different. Traditional heat pumps use the air around them, and have to work with whatever temperature it happens to be that day. Geothermal pumps push water through pipes that are buried several feet beneath the surface. This is done specifically because at this depth, the ground is the same temperature 365 days a year. Because the heat pump is receiving water at a consistent temperature, it can be ridiculously efficient, even in the winter.
Geothermal Heat Pumps Can Only be Installed in New Homes
While it is more efficient to install a geothermal heating system with a new home, this doesn’t exclude you from retrofitting your home later. As the technology has grown more popular, the demand for this change has grown as well, and it is far easier to find a contractor with experience in this area than it once was.
However, if you are considering going down this road, you should definitely get a contractor involved early in the planning process. You need to find space on your property for the pipes, and you should expect that you will need to do some landscaping when the digging is complete. You might also have to move some ductwork around so that it reaches the ideal location for the heat pump, which will be as close as possible to where the pipes enter your basement.
Geothermal is Not a Proven Technology
In reality, geothermal technology has been around for centuries. People have always made use of hot springs to harvest heat, and dug caves to harvest cool air. The current version simply updates this concept to make it work with a modern home.
The biggest problem that some older systems are having is that they were never sized properly. If the system tries to pull to much cold water from an area, the ground will slowly heat up, causing the system to lose efficiency. This is what is now occurring in some older systems.
To prevent this problem, the contractor only has to properly calculate the amount of pipe needed to heat and cool a home in your climate. If done properly, the system will run at peak efficiency until the pipes finally start to break down, which can take decades.
You Will Need to Install a Backup System
Running two separate heating and cooling systems is going to drive up the cost significantly. This is another one of those solutions to air-based heat pumps that has been incorrectly applied to geothermal systems. In order to prevent the system from consuming huge amounts of energy during the winter, many homeowners use their heat pump only for cooling and a little heating. Once the temperature drops below a certain point, a secondary gas or electric system kicks in to back up the struggling heat pump. Since cold temperatures aren’t a problem for a geothermal heat pump, this is simply not necessary.
As with any unusual tech, myths abound about the realities of using a geothermal heat pump. By doing your research and learning about what owning one of these systems is really like, you can decide if it is the right direction to take for your home.