James Mitchell

With the rising cost of gas and oil, the past few years have seen the rise of clean and renewable energy as an innovative, alternative source of power for many private homeowners. According to a 2017 study by the U.S Energy Information Administration, small-scale alternative energy usage, mostly from residential units, went up 28% in 2017, and is expected to go up another 23% in 2018.

A popular alternative to traditional HVAC systems, which rely on city power-grids that run on coal power plants, Geothermal heat pumps have been proven to reduce energy costs for residential units by up to 40% per annum. With the growing trend of championing environmentalism and reducing carbon footprints, switching to small-scale alternative energy can have a positive impact both on the user and on the planet.

How it Works

A few feet below the surface, the temperature of the earth remains constant. Ground temperatures range from 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C), depending on location. Geothermal pumps work by drawing air from inside your house and pumping it into subterranean pipes. Depending on the usage, the pipes will either draw from the latent heat of the ground to heat up the air before re-circulating it back into your house, or, the pipes use the ground as a heat sink to cool the air before it sends it back into your house.

While electricity is still needed to power the pumps, the costs are minimal as compared to traditional HVAC systems, which require additional energy to heat up or cool down air before circulation. To put this into perspective, a Geothermal pump uses 1 unit of electricity to move 5 units of refrigerated/heated air, as opposed to a traditional air conditioning unit, which would use more units.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

While initial capital for a geothermal pump can be costly, the yearly savings result in a return on investment within a few years. Geothermal pump systems work best with newer houses, as retrofitting older structures may mean additional costs. However, when factoring in the reduction of carbon footprint, as well as the aforementioned savings per annum, the cost-benefit of retrofitting older residential structures with a geothermal HVAC system can still be positive.

It is worth noting though that, in recent years, the U.S. government has started providing incentives, both in the local and federal levels, to homeowners who opt to use geothermal HVAC systems. This, along with emerging installation practices, is set to make the price of Geothermal HVAC systems more competitive with that of traditional HVAC systems.

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