Geothermal Compared to Traditional Heating and Cooling Systems

Mid-February, 2018 the 12th actually, Congress voted to extend a 30 percent federal tax credit for geothermal heat pump installations. This federal tax credit would drop the installation cost to make it more competitive with traditional heating and cooling systems.

Unlike traditional heating and cooling, Geothermal heating (like solar) cuts monthly energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The reduction in greenhouse gas is even more noticeable for homeowners who would otherwise rely on expensive, high-emissions petroleum. This is the most efficient acceptable heating and cooling technology on the market today. Typical savings for the number one household energy user, HVAC will be between 20 to 40 percent energy savings compared to traditional heating and cooling systems.

The tax credit extensions for residential and commercial geothermal heat pump installations makes installation prices more in line with traditional heating and cooling. The tax credits, which lapsed last year, are retroactive to the start of 2017; the credit allows homeowners to get back 30 percent of the cost if the system was installed between 2017 and 2020, then 26 percent in 2021, and 22 percent through 2022. These tax credits make geothermal much more competitive with conventional HVAC technology. So, there isn’t a better time to start considering geothermal and how it compares to traditional heating and cooling.

You may be already familiar with geothermal systems and how they work. Geothermal uses the theory of refrigeration to move heat into and out of a space and get the heat from the earth for heating and cools off a space by also using the earth’s steady 50-55-degree temperature.

To learn more check out the ClimateMaster videos on how geothermal works

But how does geothermal directly compare with more traditional methods of home heating and cooling?

Let’s compare a high-efficiency gas furnace to a geothermal system for heating your home. A high-efficiency gas furnace will give you less than .96 units of heat for each unit of gas burned. In contrast, a geothermal system gives you up to 5 units of heat for each unit of electricity used.

How can that be? A furnace makes heat by burning fossil. A geothermal system doesn’t make it’s own heat; it simply collects heat from the earth and moves it to your home.

The results can be a big difference in your monthly home heating bills. In terms of dollars on a yearly energy bill, take a look at the table below to see how geothermal heating compares to heating with fossil fuels.

geothermal heating vs. traditional HVACBut what about cooling your home? Let’s compare a geothermal heating and cooling system to an air-source heat pump system for cooling. When it’s hot outside, an air-source heat pump takes heat from your home and moves to the outside air.

As the outside air becomes warmer in summer, it becomes harder for the system to dump heat from your home into the already hot outside air. Because of this, when cooling a home with an air-source heat pump, the system becomes least efficient when it needs to be most efficient.

A geothermal heat pump system doesn’t have this problem. A geothermal system exchanges the heat in your home with the cooler ground using it’s underground loop system. It simply doesn’t have to deal with high outside air temperatures the way that an air-source heat pump does.

Add to that the fact that a geothermal system can be installed safely inside your home, with a loop buried underground. Unlike an air-source heat pump, there is no outdoor equipment exposed to the elements or the risk of vandalism.

Interested in seeing how much geothermal can save you on your energy bills? Use our easy geothermal calculator:calculate your savings now