I was surprised to see the ClimateMaster full page ad in my Time Magazine back in February. While I've written a blog on Residential Geothermal Heat Pumps (that makes me an expert right?) I never thought the market was big enough for a full page ad in a national magazine. But I'm glad to be proven wrong when it comes to clean energy!
In my earlier post on residential Geothermal Heat Pumps (or Ground Source Heat Pumps) I wrote:
"If the ground where the geothermal wells are drilled is 50° F year round , then the geothermal heat pump is going to pump water into the ground (which brings the water temperature close to the ground temperature), then use the water in a heat exchanger to pass the heat it has gained in the ground to your home.
In most parts of the U.S. this works in the winter (when the outside air temperature is usually colder than the ground temperature) to heat your home. But this also works in the summer, when the ground temperature is cooler than the outside air temperature and the water that is pumped into the ground is used to cool your home. It heats/cools your home year round! And it is more efficient than using electricity/gas/oil to heat/cool your home because it is only moving heat from one source to another (the ground <–> your home) not having to create the heat.
With all that being said, the burning question I have is how well geothermal heat pumps work in different parts of the country and for different home types. While there are multiple websites extolling the virtues of geothermal heat pumps, there are few sites that really highlight where they work and more importantly, where they dont. I wouldnt want to spend $30 – $40 k on geothermal heat pump system then realize it really doesn’t satisfy my heating/cooling needs."
Luckily the ClimateMaster website has a pretty nice geothermal savings calculator to help you determine the the geothermal heat pump will perform in your area. Whenever using a calculator like this, take the information with a grain of salt! For instance, when I put in that I live in the U.S.A. and in Georgia, it assumes my natural gas rate $1.67 per therm in the winter and $2.45 per therm in summer. These rates are much higher than what I pay! I am locked in at 1 year for $.86 per therm! So obviously this will affect the results that the ClimateMaster calculator produces. What they need to do is enable you to type in your own utility rates so the results are more accurate.
In their animation showing the heat pump working, they show that, "In all seasons, nearly free hot water is provided whenever the system is in use." However I'm having trouble finding more detailed information about how the system heats your water. If the ground temperature is only 50-60° F I don't know how it can get up to the 120-130°F that most people have their hot water temperature set at?
In their advertisements they say, "Cut your heating and cooling costs up to 80%". However, there are some areas of the country where the temperatures are either too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter and the geothermal heat pump just can't produce the required cooling/heating to keep you and your family comfortable. In these regions, you will need backup systems to make up that difference, and this will really impact the monetary savings of a geothermal heat pump. This fact is highlighted on my earlier post on residential Geothermal heat pumps. Annette from New York said:
I live in Northern NY and purchased a home with a 3 year old Geo-thermal system. We cannot maintain a comfortable (68 degrees) in the winter. I called the original installer and was informed that the system is only designed to function effectively, with temperatures down to approx. 15 degrees F. As I live in an area where the temperature drops below 15 most of the winter months, the system is not very effective. It seems the prior owners chose not to add the optional supplemental gas system. So, I have to use the old baseboard electric. With the cost of this, I am not seeing any savings by having the Geo-thermal (actually it is costing more). We will be replacing or supplementing the system in the Spring.
Another drawback to geothermal systems is that they do require you to have a lot of land that has to be dug up so the ground source lines can be put in place. For many people this just isn't doable.
But the good news is that geothermal heat pumps are applicable to the Federal tax credit and your local state or utility may provide more incentives to install a geothermal system.
Unfortunately there is no silver bullet determining if a geothermal heat pump will work for you because each region has drastically different climates. Your best bet is to speak with 2 or 3 installers in your area, find one you trust, and ask their advice. Do some research, find a few installers you trust and make sure to get all the facts! If you have a geothermal heat pump installed or are looking at installing one, please comment below and let us know your thoughts!