Improving Your Land: Is Geothermal Heating and Cooling For You?
There are plenty of things land can provide you – food, mineral wealth, recreation. How about using your land to heat and cool all your buildings?
Ground-source heat pumps have been in use in the United States since the 1940s, although the principle of using the constant temperature of the earth’s core as an exchange medium rather than outside air temperature has been known since prehistoric times. China and Sweden have outpaced America historically in tapping the ground for comfort but between 50,000 and 100,000 geothermal heating and cooling systems are being installed in this country each year.
The concept is simple and can be applied anywhere. While air temperatures in most places can vary by 100 degrees or so during the year the temperature under the ground – as little as four feet under the ground – remains constant. In an exchange system the hot indoor air of summer is pumped underground and cooler air is returned to the building; in winter the air temperature is cooler and the loop carries warmer air into the building.
The “earth loop” can be tweaked above and below ground. If your land contains a water source liquid can be introduced to make the loop even more efficient. There are geothermal systems tailored for climate and soil variations. They can also be built for heavy duty commercial installations. Inside the building geothermal heating can be used not just for comfort but can work to heat water as well. Either way, no fossil fuels are burned to generate heat.
The advantages to a geothermal heating system are many. It will last for generations and be practically maintenance-free. The system requires a small footprint on your land and can be installed vertically for small lots with holes drilled several hundred feet into the earth. The system is quiet and there is no outside equipment. More elaborate systems can be equipped with variable fans and compressors for additional comfort and energy savings.
So, will a geothermal heating and cooling system be worth it to you? Installation will carry a price tag several times higher than an equivalent air-source system. The make-up on those up-front costs in energy savings costs will require about ten years. After that you can look forward to many more years on the plus side – most inside components carry a life expectancy of 25+ years and the ground loop should outlive your time in the house.