Is a Geothermal Heat Pump Right For You?

Various surveys have shown that people who live with geothermal heat pumps love them. What’s not to love about ground-source heat pumps, as they also are often called. They are efficient, quiet, safe, environmentally sound and save you quite a bit of money.
So why doesn’t everyone have one? Well, for one thing you have to live in the right place, with a sufficient source of water available, among other factors.
Most heat pumps extract their heating and cooling capabilities from the outside air. This makes them impractical in northern climates where frigid temperatures don’t provide enough heating capability in winter.
Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs from now on) draw from water instead of air. Underground water in all parts of the country generally stays at a fairly constant temperature year-round, generally between 50-60 degrees, thanks to the natural insulation provided by Mother Earth. This makes them practical for use north, south and everywhere in between.
Of course, you need to be able to access that water freely. This requires a convenient source of groundwater or a nearby pond, lake or stream to tap into.
There are two basic kinds of GHP piping systems — closed loop and open loop. For closed loop systems, water or an anti-freeze solution gets circulated and re-circulated through pipes buried under the surface. An open system has spent water discharged into a pond, lake, stream or artificial holding area. You can save a lot of money with an open system; however, few people have the private facilities required. Environmental regulations prohibit dumping discharged water into most public bodies of water or on public land.
A horizontal loop system, dug relatively shallow, uses up quite a bit of property. Less destructive is a vertical loop system run through holes drilled just like wells. Some people resist GHPs because they don’t want their landscaping torn up. In some cases, trenching would be prohibitive anyway because of unsuitable soil conditions.
The other main obstacle to GHPs is that there is no getting around the fact that initial installation tends to be more expensive compared with conventional HVAC furnaces and air-to-air heat pumps. This is mainly because of the outside trenching or drilling required for GHPs. The good news is that usually the extra expense can be paid back in energy cost savings within 3-5 years. So GHPs can be a great deal if you can absorb the upfront installation cost.
Another reason why there are relatively few GHP systems around is that most people simply don’t know about them. Most HVAC contractors have never installed them, so they never even tell customers about this option.
That’s what this article is intended to rectify. If you want to save money and enjoy a quiet, efficient, ecological way to heat and cool your home — and provide it with hot water as an option – give us a call. We’ll help you determine if a GHP is right for you.


Don JohnsonDon Johnson is the President of Freedom Heating and Cooling in Birmingham, Alabama which offers home owners tools including:
9 Things to Check Before Calling for Service on Your Air Conditioner or Furnace”,  a resource to help home owners save on HVAC problems
The Home Owner’s Guide to Hiring a Heating and Air Conditioning Company“, a quick read on how to guarantee you never suffer by hiring the wrong contractor.
The Ultimate Home Owner’s Guide to Designing an HVAC System , a 59-page eBook covering the 9 steps to building a Complete Home Comfort System.   Contact him at 205-444-4444 or connect on facebook or Google +