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FAQ

Just what is geothermal?
Geothermal heating and cooling is an exchange of heat with the earth. The actual soil under the typical building site has a tremendous ability to store and release heat. A geothermal system is a machine designed to use this ability. There is a basic law of physics that states; it is more efficient to move heat that already exists than to make new heat from another form of energy. Geothermal is a concept that puts this basic law to work for the advantage of property owners everywhere.

How does a geothermal system work?
The temperature of an object is a reflection of the concentration of British Thermal Units (BTU’s). If we take some BTU’s out, we lower the temperature. If we put some BTU’s in, we raise the temperature. Whenever we take BTU’s out of something, those BTU’s have to be put somewhere.

A geothermal system connects the inside of a building with the earth beneath it. An exchange of BTU’s between the two keeps the temperature inside the building constant and comfortable. When the temperature inside a building is too warm, the geothermal unit takes just the right number of BTU’s out of the building to make it cool and comfortable and puts those BTU’s into the earth. When the temperature inside gets too cool, the system changes direction and removes BTU’s from the earth and adds those BTU’s to the inside of the building raising the temperature just enough to keep the inside warm and comfortable.

There are currently three ways that geothermal units connect with the earth. Two use liquid and one does not. The two that use a liquid are “Open Loop and Closed Loop”. The other is called Direct Exchange (DX).

How efficient are geothermal systems?
The first part of the answer lies in how energy efficient a building envelope is or will be upon completion?

A conventional high efficiency gas forced air heating system can be in the range of 92-94% efficient. This means for every dollar spent purchasing energy; you get .92-.94 cents worth of heat or energy in return.

By comparison, a geothermal heat pump is measured in Coefficient of Performance (COP), this means that a heat pump operating at COP 4.0 during the heating season provides 4 units of heat for each unit of energy consumed. The output heat comes from both the heat source and 1kW of input energy. This means, for each dollar spent on energy, you can receive a $4 dollar return.

This also means a 3-5 year payback for most property. With a life expectancy of between 20-25 years on a properly designed and installed geothermal system, returns can be enormous even without calculating future energy price increases.

What types of properties are well suited for a geothermal installation?
The majority of properties will be a candidate for a geothermal system. In the past two years, the Eastern US has had over 50,000 geothermal heat pump installations. Harvard University has committed to using geothermal and other alternative energy sources on all new structures and is in the process of retrofitting existing buildings as well.

What does a geothermal system cost?
There are many variables discovered in the analysis and design phase of each project that can affect the final installed price. Each project, whether a single family home or a multiple story office complex begins with a feasibility study to determine if a geothermal heating and cooling system is the right choice. Yes, geothermal is more of an investment than a conventional HVAC system. A better question today maybe; what is the cost of not installing an alternative energy system?

Earth provides us the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Energy for transportation, the lumber and steel to build our homes and places for work and worship. Mother earth also gives us the means to stay warm or cool year around. Each choice we make carries an investment; the outcome of our choices will be felt for decades to come.

How long do geothermal systems last?
20-25 years. Loop fields can last 50 years or more. There is no outside placement of equipment to rust or hide from view. Much lower operating maintenance than conventional systems, with few moving parts.

Is there a best time to “Go Geothermal”? Yes, there are several:
– At the design stage for most building and remodeling projects,
– When replacing a failing conventional HVAC system,
– and retrofitting of existing buildings can be commenced at anytime.

What system is best for my property? What size and what options should I consider? How much will I need to invest? How long of a payback?

You can buy clothing "off the rack" but a geothermal system needs to be tailor made for each property. Consult with fully trained and certified IGSHPA contractors:
Click Here to search for a Geothermal Specialist in your area