According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) geothermal systems are, "the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost effective space conditioning systems available today." Extremely high levels of efficiency are possible because a geothermal heat pump only uses electricity to move heat, not produce it. A geothermal unit typically supplies four to five kilowatts of heat energy for every kilowatt of electricity used. Three to four of these kilowatts of heat come from the earth itself, and are clean, free and renewable. Geothermal heat pumps also take advantage of the mild ground temperature for extremely high efficiency cooling. Most systems also include a hot water generator, which diverts a portion of the supplied heat to the domestic water heater. This provides a substantial portion of a family's hot water needs at a very low cost. Overall, geothermal technology offers the highest cooling and heating efficiencies of any system available today.

Geothermal systems transfer heat from your home to the earth in the cooling mode, or from the earth to your home in the heating mode. Water is used as the heat transfer medium through a closed loop piping system buried in the ground. By using this stable thermal source, geothermal heat pumps provide energy efficient comfort year round with a factory tested and sealed packaged unit, without the need for a noisy outdoor fan, or a flue.

The environmental advantages of geothermal systems have caught the eye of governmental agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). Because geothermal technology is lowest in CO2 emissions, it provides a solution to global warming by primarily using the natural energy of the earth. Earthpure® (R-410A) zero ozone depletion refrigerant is available for ClimateMaster geothermal heat pumps for an even friendlier system.

In January 2006 the U.S. Federal government changed the minimum efficiency for air conditioners to 13 SEER from the previous minimum requirement of 10 SEER. Geothermal systems are up to twice the minimum required efficiency! As efficiency ratings increase, operating costs decrease. However, efficiency ratings alone do not tell the "whole story" when it comes to operating costs for homeowners. Fuel type, home construction, geographic location and thermostat settings are just some of the factors.

Over the years, geothermal systems have always been the leader in low operating costs. Recently, however, fossil fuel (natural gas, fuel oil and propane) have begun increasing at a much higher rate than electricity. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that electricity prices will remain stable over the next twenty years, allowing some increase for inflation. Now is the time to consider electric technologies like geothermal heat pumps for heating, cooling and hot water needs.

Even a high efficiency natural gas furnace with a high efficiency air conditioner is still nearly twice the operating costs as a geothermal system. Since these operating comparisons are for new equipment (i.e. standard efficiencies = 13 SEER efficiency for air conditioners and 80% AFUE efficiency for furnaces), comparisons to existing equipment being replaced by a geothermal system would be even more dramatic. If the existing air conditioner is older, it may have an efficiency of 8 and 10 SEER. Older furnaces could be as low as 65-70% efficient.

The Geothermal Concept
Things you should know

What is a Geothermal Heat Pump?

How Does a Geothermal Heat Pump Work?

How is heat transferred between the earth and the home?

You mentioned heating and cooling. Does it do both?

Do I need separate ground loops for heating and cooling?

Will I have to add insulation to my home if I install one of these systems?

Can a geothermal heat pump also heat water for my home?

Can a geothermal heat pump be added to my fossil fuel (Gas, oil, propane) furnace?

I have ductwork, but will it work with this system?

Do I need to increase the size of my electric service?

How efficient is a geothermal heat pump?

What does a system like this cost?

Can I get a tax credit for installing this system?

How long is the payback period for your ground-source heat pump system?

Q: What is a Geothermal Heat Pump? top
A: A geothermal or "ground source" heat pump is an electroniclly-powered device that uses the natural heat storage ability of the earth and/or the earth's groundwater to heat and cool your home or business.

Q: How Does a Geothermal Heat Pump Work? top
A:
Like any type of heat pump, it simply moves heat energy from one place to another. Your refrigerator works using the same scientific principle. By using refrigeration, the geothermal heat pump removes heat energy stored in the earth and/or the earth's groundwater and transfers it to the home.

Q: How is heat transferred between the earth and the home? top
A:
The earth has the ability to absorb and store heat energy. To use that stored energy, heat is extracted from the earth through a liquid medium (water or an antifreeze solution) and is pumped to the heat pump heat exchanger. There the heat is used to heat your home. In summer the process is reversed and indoor heat is extracted form your home and transferred to the earth through the liquid.

Q: You mentioned heating and cooling. Does it do both? top
A:
One of the things that makes a heat pump so versatile is it's ability to be a heating and cooling system in one. You can change from one mode to another with a simple flick of a switch on your thermostat. Plus, a geothermal heat pump can assist in heating hot water year-round.

Q: Do I need separate ground loops for heating and cooling? top
A:
No. The same loops work for both. All that happens when changing from heating to cooling, or vise versa, is that the flow of heat is reversed inside the unit.

Q: Will I have to add insulation to my home if I install one of these systems? top
A:
Geothermal heat pumps will reduce your heating and cooling costs regardless of how well your home is insulated. However, insulating and weatherizing are key factors in releasing the most savings from any type of system.

Q: Can a geothermal heat pump also heat water for my home? top
A:
Yes. Using what's called a How Water Generator (HWG), some types of geothermal heat pumps can save you up to 50 percent on your water heating bill by preheating tank water. The HWG is a factory-installed option.

Q: Can a geothermal heat pump be added to my fossil fuel (Gas, oil, propane) furnace? top
A:
Split systems can easily be added to existing furnaces for those wishing to have a dual-fuel system. Use the heat pump as the main heating source and a furnace as a supplement in extremely cold weather if additional heat is needed.

Q: I have ductwork, but will it work with this system? top
A:
In all probability, yes. We can determine ductwork requirements and any major modifications, if needed.

Q: Do I need to increase the size of my electric service? top
A:
Geothermal heat pump systems don't use large amounts of resistance heat, so your existing electrical service may be adequate. Generally, a 200 amp service will have enough capacity, and smaller amp services may be large enough in some cases. Your electric utility or contractor can determine your service needs.

Q: How efficient is a geothermal heat pump? top
A:
Geothermal heat pumps are 3.5 - 5 times as efficient as the most efficient fossil fuel furnace. Instead of burning a combustible fuel to make heat, they simply move heat that already exists. By doing so, they provide 3.5 - 5 units of energy for every unit used to power the heat pump system.

Q: What does a system like this cost? top
A:
A system for a typical home will cost more than if you bought a separate forced-air furnace and central air conditioning system. But you wouldn't be comparing "apples to apples". To get an accurate comparison of costs you need to consider the following:

Payback, or how long it takes to recover the difference in costs between the two systems using energy savings. Payback for most geothermal heat pump systems runs three to five years.

Energy efficiency of the two systems. To get an accurate picture, make sure efficiency claims are substantiated. Your lifestyle and how well your home is insulated affect how economical a system will be.

Total operating savings from heating, cooling and domestic hot water must be combined to get an accurate picture of total energy savings.

Energy costs and availability, both present and future.

Maintenance costs and system reliability.

System lifespan.

Climate Master GeoDesigner software can calculate annual operating costs for geothermal systems and compare to other technologies.

Q: Can I get a tax credit for installing this system? top
A:
Yes, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 removed the $2000 cap on Federal Tax Credits for high efficiency projects. You now can receive a 30% federal tax credit for the cost of the entire project. If you don't use all of the tax credit in the year of installation, not to worry, you can roll it over and use it in the following years as well.
In some states there are also tax credits for installing geothermal systems. CLICK HERE to visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency
Also, you can check with your electric utility, Department of Commerce, or Ministry of Revenue for further details.

Q: How long is the payback period for your ground-source heat pump system? top
A:
To figure this accurately, you must know how much per year you'll save in energy costs with a ground-source system and the difference between it and a traditional heating system and central air conditioner. As an example: if you'll save $700 per year with a ground-source system and the cost difference is $2000, your payback would be less than three years.

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