Geothermal energy is growing each year as a popular way to help your home go green. Whether you are in the depths of research, or this article is your first step in finding out what geothermal is all about – you’ve come to the right place to narrow down some of the pros and cons and find out if geothermal is right for you!
What Is Geothermal?
Geothermal energy is when heat is gathered from below the earth’s surface, which can then be harnessed to heat or cool your home. It is one of the best ways to get clean, renewable energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Good For The Environment
Geothermal energy is very friendly on the environment, because it uses the earth itself to heat and cool your home, and emits no gasses. There is no significant pollution that comes from using geothermal because you are harnessing heat energy that already exists in the earth rather than creating new energy. If you are environmentally conscious, this is a very important check in the ‘pro’ column.
A Real Renewable Resource
In that same vein, it’s one of the only energy sources that is really renewable. As long as there is a place to call Earth, we can keep using its geothermal energy. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, we have an “almost unlimited amount of heat generated by the Earth's core. Even in geothermal areas dependent on a reservoir of hot water, the volume taken out can be re-injected, making it a sustainable energy source.”
Low Cost To Operate
The price to operate a geothermal system is way less, even compared to the most efficient natural gas system. Because there are no fluctuations in the market for the Earth’s heat – it’s limitless – like there is with gas and oil, the price stays very minimal.
Reliable Temperature Control
Geothermal energy will work for you year round. It isn’t dependent on the sunny days (solar) or the windy days (wind turbines). It’s reliable, because the soil beneath our feet stays a stable 50 to 60 degrees every day of the year. Even in the middle of a deep winter freeze, the temperature 10 feet below the surface stays constant and warm.
Doesn’t Take Up Much Above-Ground Space
The majority of the system that does the energy gathering is underground, so it takes up very little above ground space. That’s what makes it work in both smaller houses and big commercial buildings.
Expensive To Install
Perhaps the biggest deterrent to getting geothermal installed is the big upfront cost. According to the energy design website, Energyhomes.org, the geothermal system for a typical home of 2,500 square feet will cost $20,000-$25,000 to install.
Not to mention that you will need to hire a crew to dig and drill, because the most common heat exchange systems, according to our resident expert, Keith Hill, are loops of plastic piping buried deep in the backyard or in vertical wells (with the plastic pipe installed in wells similar to a water well).
And, because at this time geothermal systems aren’t as popular as a traditional HVAC, there are fewer professionals that do installations – and, therefore, less competition for competitive prices.
Can Be Hard Or Costly To Retrofit Old Homes
If you are building a new home, it can be pretty easy to install the system before the house and landscaping go in. However, if you are adding it on to an existing home, know that there will be some big excavations and drillings that would tear up your yard and may wreck any existing landscaping.
The Hassle If You Do Need A Repair
Although less likely to need as much maintenance, it can be very costly to repair if a tree root grows through your piping underground or a gopher digs and chews his way through. Imagine re-escavating everything to see where the problem lies in the system or paying for that repair. Even hiring a geothermal repairman may seem like a harder task compared to hiring a traditional HVAC repairman.