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Geothermal Heat Pumps – Kind of a Big Deal

by admin on January 12, 2012

Geothermal Heat Pumps – Highly Efficient and the Feds will Help Pay for It

Geothermal Heat Pumps use piping buried underground or in ponds or lakes.

Geothermal heat pumps have gotten more attention over the last few years than any other single source of home heating and cooling. Why? Because they’re extremely efficient AND the federal government is willing to pay for 30% of the cost to install them in your home!

Geothermal heat pumps provide both heating and cooling to your home. What this means is that it is going to reduce your utility bills year round – not just during the winter or summer. Additionally, with an option called a “desuperheater”, a geothermal heat pump can provide free heat for your domestic water during parts of the year.

Air Source Heat Pumps Struggle in Extreme Weather

Traditional air-source heat pumps use the outside air as a source of energy. The unit that sets outside most homes has a bunch of copper coils running back and forth. These coils carry refrigerant and a fan is used to move air across the coils. The heat from the outside air is used to cool or heat the refrigerant. As you and I both know, the outside temperature in our neck of the woods can vary from 10 degrees in the winter, all the way up to 110 degrees in the summer. When it’s 10 degrees outside, there just isn’t much heat in the air that can be used to “heat” the refrigerant. When it’s 110 degrees in the summer, blowing hot air across the copper coils doesn’t do much to “cool” the refrigerant either. In short, air source heat pumps have a hard time keeping up in extreme weather.

A Hibernating Bear Knows where the Warmth Is

Just like the consistent temperatures of a caver (cool in the summer & warm in the winter), geothermal heat pumps work well because they use the ground as the source of energy rather than the outdoor air. In the Fort Smith area, the ground remains at a fairly constant temperature somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees – all year long.  A geothermal heat pump doesn’t have copper coils sitting outside your home with a fan blowing across them. Instead, a geo heat pump utilizes piping that is buried in the ground. By exchanging the heat in your home with the earth and its stable temperatures, a geothermal system results in big savings on your electricity bill in both the summer and winter.

Geothermal Can Pay for Itself Through Energy Savings

Even though the cost of a geothermal system can be several times that of a traditional air to air heat pump system, the additional costs can usually be recouped in 5 to 10 years. However, it may start paying for itself immediately. If the cost of your geothermal heat pump is rolled into the mortgage for new house construction, the extra $30 a month on your mortgage payment will be offset by the greater savings on your heating and cooling bills.

While most of the energy improvement tax credits expired at the end of 2012, geothermal tax credits of 30% are still in play. There hasn’t been a better time to invest in a geothermal system.