The Pros and Cons of Geothermal Heating

Written by  //  December 9, 2020  //  Energy Efficient Home  //  Comments Off on The Pros and Cons of Geothermal Heating

Geothermal Heating

As we confront our need to drastically reduce our fossil fuel usage while constructing new homes, many of these new homeowners are seeking heating solutions that don’t rely on combustibles such as natural gas or heating oil. In some cases, it may be a conscious decision to seek greener heating. In others, such as where the terrain makes laying down gas lines untenable, their property may make that decision for them.

Fortunately, there is more to heating than the traditional furnace. Some households can benefit from electric baseboard heating, an efficient and decentralized alternative to furnace heat. However, some homeowners may find baseboard heaters unsightly and inconvenient, preferring the ease of central heating and air. For that, there’s an electric solution with an unlikely source: the natural warmth of the earth beneath us.

Geothermal heating systems use the earth as a heat bank of sorts: in the summer, a heat pump draws the warm air from your home and the atmosphere and stores it underground around a network of pipes. As winter sets in, the pump draws that heat back out of the ground to heat your home. But as dynamic as geothermal heating can be, no heating system is perfect. Here are some of the pros and cons of geothermal heating to consider for your new home.

The Benefits

The biggest benefit of going geothermal is in energy bills. Geothermal heat is an efficient alternative, especially in areas where electricity is plentiful and affordable. Your heat pump uses electricity rather than natural gas, and while natural gas is generally cheaper than electricity, the efficiency of the heat pump more than makes up for that by conserving energy.

Geothermal heating can be effective in almost any season or climate, warm or cold, thanks to the earth’s temperature remaining relatively constant. In addition to savings and versatility, a geothermal heat pump is one of the most eco-friendly ways you can heat your home, greener than both the natural gas most homes use and the heating oil that still persists in parts of the Northeast. Geothermal systems are long-lasting, with heat pumps lasting longer than traditional gas furnaces, while the underground pipes can stay functional for over 50 years.

The Drawbacks

Geothermal heating does not come without disadvantages. Perhaps the biggest encumbrance to installing a system is the upfront cost, which is upward of $30,000 to excavate, install the piping, and cover, in addition to traditional ductwork installations. Homeowners may be apprehensive about embracing a less familiar system than a gas-powered furnace. The high costs of retrofitting an existing home to go geothermal can discourage customers as well.

What’s Next?

No homeowner or builder should pursue the significant undertaking of installing such a system without careful consideration of the pros and cons of geothermal heating and the different types of furnaces available under the circumstances. However, it is hard to deny the long-term benefits of a heating system that eschews fossil fuels while still functioning effectively through winter, especially as a lower carbon footprint becomes more and more important to a sustainable future.

image credit: Pixabay

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