Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Geothermal, Is Green the way to be?

Geothermal - of or pertaining to the internal heat of the earth.
 A few years ago when we purchased our first single family home we discussed installing a Geothermal System to heat the house and save a few dollars a month. At the time we figured it was too expensive to install and kind of crazy so we never researched the system. Instead we replaced the 25-year old wood windows and re-insulated the attic. Most homes spend most of their energy bills during the summer months. Our home is surrounded by 30-year old Oak and Poplar trees. When the leaves are on the trees during the summer months we are shaded and cool. During the winter months we see our energy bills double. My husband is always worried that our heat pump is not working efficiently and may quit on us due to the age.

Good friends of ours both engineers did a ton of research and decided to take the plunge and install a closed loop geothermal system. The loops contain water/anti-freeze fluid and as the fluid moves through the pipes it draws heat from the ground. Once the fluid passes through the heat pump, the heat pump uses electricity to extract the heat. The heat is then used to warm the house. If the system is run in the opposite direction the cooled fluid can be used to cool the house. The electricity used is minimal compared to the electricity used solely to heat a home. It is also a lot cheaper than using oil due to the ever flux in oil prices.

Overall they spent between 25K and 35K and in three to five years they will have recouped everything they spent to install and purchase the system. According to the EPA, homeowners will save approximately 30-70% on heating costs and 25-50% on cooling costs. Our friends will also get a 30% Tax Credit for installing an energy efficient system. This Tax Credit is available through 2016 and is different than the home efficiency tax credit.

Even if you're not into the Green Movement it's hard to pass up on the savings per year. The hardest thing to swallow would be the up front cost to install and purchase the system. But if you're looking to sell your home the reduction of energy costs would be an attractive selling point.

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