Turning Your Energy Dollars Into a 65% Return
by Richard Harrington, President Gwyn Electrical Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Co.
A Geothermal Heat Pump May Be the Answer.
Homeowners across North America are searching for better ways to get more out of their energy dollar. Many have found a solution in geothermal heat pumps. Geothermal heating and cooling uses the relatively constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool homes and businesses with 40 percent to 70 percent less energy than conventional systems. While conventional furnaces and boilers burn a fuel to generate heat, geothermal heat pumps use electricity to simply move heat from the earth into buildings, allowing much higher efficiencies. Indeed, a geothermal heat pump can move up to 4 units of heat for every unit of electricity needed to power the system, resulting in a practical equivalence of over 400 percent efficiency. And it’s not just the savings you receive using your new geothermal heat pump. It is also the savings you get when you apply for an energy tax credit of up to 65%. In essence, you only pay 35% of the installation costs after these tax credits. And for those who qualify, up front financing is available interest free for 12 months, so the homeowner has a minimal initial investment. While the initial costs are more for a geothermal system, the bottom line cost is about the same as a conventional heat pump after tax credits are applied. You end up with a 27 SEER unit versus a conventional heat pump that peaks out at about 18 SEER. And there is no outdoor unit which means less maintenance and expense, and your system will last up to 50 years!!
The application of geothermal heating and cooling has been named “the most energy efficient and environmentally sensitive of all space conditioning systems” by the Environmental Protection Agency. Geothermal energy not only costs less to operate than any other heating and cooling system, but also helps preserve natural resources and lessens our dependency on fossil fuels. One of the things that make a heat pump so versatile is that you can change from one mode to another with a simple flick of a switch on your indoor thermostat. A geothermal heat pump can assist in heating hot water year-round, and you don’t need separate ground loops for heating and cooling.
When changing from heating to cooling, or vice versa, the flow of heat is reversed inside the unit. The term “open-loop” is commonly used to describe a geothermal heat pump system that uses groundwater from a conventional well as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. The groundwater is pumped through the heat pump where heat is extracted (in winter) or rejected (in summer), and then the water is disposed of in an appropriate manner–making an open-loop system pollution free. The heat pump merely removes heat from or adds heat to the water. The term “closed-loop” describes a geothermal heat pump system that uses a continuous loop of buried plastic pipe as a heat exchanger. The pipe is connected to the indoor heat pump to form a sealed, underground loop through which water or an anti-freeze solution is circulated. Unlike an open-loop system that consumes water from a Turning Your Energy Dollars Into a 65% Return well, a closed-loop system re-circulates its heat transferring solution in pressurized pipe(s). Closed-loops are trenched horizontally in yards adjacent to the home if the yard is large enough. In smaller yards, the loops can be installed vertically using a drill rig, much like a water well installation.
Properly installed, using high-density polyethylene pipe, closed loops will last more than 50 years. Better still, research has proven that loops have no adverse effect on grass, trees or shrubs. Most horizontal loop installations use trenches about 3 feet or less wide and temporary bare areas can be restored with grass seed or sod. Vertical loops require little space and result in minimal lawn damage.
Additionally, geothermal heat pumps can heat water for your home. Using a hot water generator, some types of geothermal heat pumps can save up to 50 percent on a water heating bill by pre-heating tank water. Plus, existing ductwork can usually be used with such a system.
Bottom line: Geothermal heating and cooling is sustainable, affordable and can keep your entire house more comfortable year-round. These systems are the most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective conditioning systems available today. Consult with a professional HVAC contractor to investigate your options today.
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