Geothermal Heating and Cooling – Pros and Cons

Investing in a geothermal system might become one of the best decisions you’ve made in life.

Geothermal heating and cooling is cost-effective and environmentally friendly; moreover, such systems have an incredibly long lifespan and are not high-maintenance. However, do bear in mind that some properties cannot accommodate such a system and the upfront cost can reach $30.000. 

Geothermal Heating and Cooling Pros and Cons

Geothermal heating and cooling systems work by using the earth’s stable temperature. Such units transfer the heat by either dispersing it underground or absorbing it.

Read: When To Turn Heat On?

What Are the Benefits of Geothermal Heating and Cooling?

  • Geothermal heating is cost-effective

The operating costs of such systems are very low. Even though the units still need electricity to operate, for every unit of energy they consume, they are going to produce around 4 units of energy.

You will immediately see a 50-60% reduction in your heating and cooling bill and your investment might recoup in as little as 4 years (15 years max, in the majority of cases).

Moreover, some systems can work with your water tank, so you’ll be able to save on water heating as well (the system simply sends the excess heat to the tank).

Hint: geothermal heating and cooling also might add to your house’s value. 

Finally, you might have access to geothermal incentives – utility companies and government agencies are ready to offer financial help to those who have decided to switch to renewable energy.

  • It is renewable, eco-friendly, and safe

Such heating and cooling does not require fossil fuels and, as a result, significantly reduces carbon emissions. Even though such systems still need electricity, they actually produce 75-85% less carbon dioxide than gas and oil units.

Geothermal systems do not produce hazardous waste as they don’t use combustion. Such a system also eliminates the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Such systems have a long lifespan and require little maintenance

You would have to replace a traditional air conditioner every 10-15 years and a regular furnace every 15-20 years. Moreover, maintaining such units in great condition can become too time-consuming and expensive. 

Geothermal systems consist of ground loops and a heat pump. Properly installed loops can last for up to 50 years, while the heat pump would have to be replaced every 20-25 years.

Maintaining a geothermal system is a lot easier than taking care of other units simply because it doesn’t have HVAC equipment outside the house (only underground). There will be no condensers and tanks outside and a geothermal system does not need a window unit.

Moreover, because of the fact that the loops are located underground, the outdoor part of your geothermal system won’t be producing any noise that you can actually hear.

Read: What Is The Best Way To Heat A Large Space?

What Are 3 Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy?

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with geothermal heating and cooling that we should mention as well.

  • A high upfront cost

On average, you can expect to invest anywhere between $12.000 and $30.000 in a geothermal system.

The cost is going to depend on the type of system, the accessibility of your property, soil conditions, and whether you are going to need to modify the existing HVAC system.

If your house does not have existing ductwork, then you would have to spend a few thousand dollars on adding ducts throughout your home.

After incentives are applied, the unit can cost you around $20.000 which is still a lot of money for the majority of homeowners.

Some companies offer various financing options. You might find a plan that allows you to make monthly payments, for example.

  • Site-dependency

Geothermal systems are uniquely designed and sized for every single house. However, not all properties can accommodate such a unit, for example, the ones with certain space constraints for drilling.

You should also bear in mind that the installation of the loop is going to disturb your landscaping. The professionals will use a drill rig and break into your backyard’s ground.

By the way, your community might not allow the installation of a geothermal system. So, the first thing you would want to do is talk to your local authorities and secure all the digging and building permits, if necessary. 

  • You’ll need to find an experienced contractor

The installation of a geothermal system is definitely not a DIY project. Your unit is going to be efficient only if it had been designed and installed correctly.

There are certain parts of the country where you still won’t be able to find a qualified professional for the job. The expert has to inspect your property’s geological, spatial, and hydrological characteristics to determine the best type of loop for your specific case.

Contact your local utility company or the IGSHPA to find a list of certified installers in your area.

Read: What Are Heat Pump Disadvantages?

Pros and Cons of Water Source Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps can be referred to as ‘ground-source’ or ‘water-source’ heat pumps. The latter work by absorbing energy from water sources (lakes, ponds, rivers, and so on).

When it comes to the pros and cons of water-source heat pumps, they are pretty much the same as those of ground-source systems.

The only differences are that:

  • Water-source heat pumps have a lower installation cost than other types of geothermal systems.
  • Such heat pumps have very specific installation requirements which make only a small number of properties with a nearby groundwater source suitable for these systems. 

Read: What Is Proper Humidity For Your House And Why?

Is Geothermal Heating and Cooling Reliable?

Other types of renewable energy, like wind and solar, highly depend on weather conditions and climates. Geothermal is, perhaps, the most reliable type of energy out of them all as the temperature of the ground stays pretty much the same year-round.

Another great thing is that you would no longer have to suffer from price fluctuations and politics (fossil fuels have always been a subject of that).

What makes geothermal energy extremely reliable is the fact that you yourself will have the opportunity to control your heating and cooling bills by harvesting an energy source located in your yard.

However, do bear in mind that geothermal systems need electricity to function. So, if there is ever a power issue in your area, the unit won’t be able to work.

Read: How Many BTU Do I Need To Heat A House?

What Can Go Wrong with Geothermal?

Even though geothermal systems are low-maintenance when compared to other heating and cooling units and have a longer lifespan, there are still a few things that you should be aware of. 

  • The water mixture that travels through the underground pipes can, at one point, leak.
  • Leaky pipes in a closed-loop system can end up harming the plants and contaminating the nearby water
  • Geothermal systems can have the same ductwork-related issues as any other HVAC system with ducts. This includes gaps and holes in the ducts, dirty air filters, etc.

Read: What Is The Most Efficient Heating And Cooling System

Is Geothermal Heating and Cooling Worth the Cost?

A geothermal system is definitely an investment, but, on average, the unit is going to pay off in less than a decade.

All in all, homeowners that have decided to switch to geothermal heating and cooling can expect to save up to 60% on heating and up to 50% on cooling.

Read: Ceiling Vents Vs. Floor Vents. What’s The Difference And Efficiency?

How Much Does It Cost to Install Geothermal?

The cost is going to depend on a few factors, but, on average, you should expect to pay anywhere between $12.000 and $30.000 for a new geothermal system.

Geothermal Heat Pump Replacement Cost

The heat pump is the part of the system that would need to be replaced every 20-25 years. 

Depending on the location, loop type, and house size, you should be prepared to pay $4.000-$8.000 per ton to install a new heat pump.

How Long Does Geothermal Last?

The piping in the geothermal loop should last you up to 50 years. In contrast, you would have to change your furnace every 15-20 years and the air conditioner – every 10-15 years.