Is A Geothermal Heat Pump Right For You?

The Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental and consumer groups are unanimous in extolling the virtues of geothermal heat pumps. In fact, the EPA has stated they are the most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost effective space conditioning systems available. That's the kind of endorsement that makes people start wondering whether a geothermal heat pump might make sense for them. If you're one of those people here's some things about geothermal heat pumps you might want to consider.

Geothermal heat pumps are expensive initially, but their life cycle costs are substantially less than conventional heating systems.

Heat pumps cost on average about $2500 per ton of capacity so an average 3 ton residential unit tons would cost around $7500. In comparison, a conventional heating unit plus an air conditioner for the same size home would cost around $4000. Offsetting the higher initial cost, it's estimated that with a geothermal heat pump a homeowner would save 30 to 60% on their energy usage. At an average energy cost per home of $1500 per year, that would be a saving of $450 to $900 per year, providing a payback of the extra cost in 4 to 8 years.

Geothermal heat pumps are durable, long lasting and virtually maintenance free.

Since the heat exchanger is located indoors away from the extremes of the weather, the units require little maintenance and should last for years.

Loop fields themselves are often warranted for 25 to 50 years and scientific projections based on the materials, suggest they could actually last for over 100 years.

Geothermal heat pumps are environmentally safe and clean

Since heat pumps use less energy than conventional systems when operating, they minimize the need to burn fossil fuels to produce energy, and at the same time reduce carbon dioxide emissions and acid rain.

Because there isn't any combustion when a heat pump is operating, there can't be any combustion by products in the air. That means no fumes or odors and no reason to worry about carbon monoxide in the house.

All sounds great, why isn't everyone getting a geothermal heat pump?

While the energy and environmental savings are real, the costs unfortunately can be quite variable and sometimes substantial

Where a property is situated, the existing landscaping, the location of underground utilities and the actual size of a property can all have an affect the cost of system.

The composition of the underlying rock and soil on a lot affects heat transfer rates and naturally, the design of a system. Soil with poor heat transfer properties may require the installation of incremental piping, which can add substantially to the cost of a system.

On small properties or in areas with very little soil or lots of rock, vertical ground loops that will require drilling may be necessary (in some cases up to 400 feet) again adding to the cost.

So how do I find out about my home?

The knowledge to properly design and install a geothermal heat pump system is specialized. The best way to find out if a heat pump will cost effectively work for you is to contact a certified and qualified geothermal installer.

Finding qualified installers can be a challenge, but you should be able to find qualified installers in your area, by contacting either the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium (, the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association ( or even in some areas, your local utility company.