When you’re considering upgrading your HVAC system and want the most
energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment available, consider a geothermal
installation. Geothermal heat pumps tap into the stable underground temperatures
to condition your home’s air, and can lower your energy bills by
as much as 60 percent. Recent advances in geothermal installations mean
that even homeowners with limited yard space can take advantage of these
Although installing a geothermal heat pump costs more up front than an
air-source pump or other types of HVAC equipment, you recover the financial
investment over time as it operates to heat or cool your home. Besides
lower energy consumption, the systems last much longer and require less
maintenance than any other kind of heating and cooling equipment. The
underground loops can last as long as 50 years, while the life expectancy
of the above-ground parts, with routine maintenance, can perform 25 years
or more. Unlike air-source heat pumps, geothermal pumps do not use outdoor
condensers, which simplifies maintenance and reduces noise.
When considering a geothermal installation, it helps to work with an HVAC
contractor from the beginning. There’s little about geothermal that
is in do-it-yourself territory, since the installation and specific type
of heat pump you choose depends on your yard, its geology and hydrology.
If you have a small yard, your options are likely to be limited to a vertical
system. That has a higher installation cost because deep trenches must
be dug by heavy equipment — always an expensive process.
As an incentive to put geothermal heat pumps in the realm of possibility
for more homeowners, the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit
for people who install a geothermal system that meets specific guidelines
through 2016. No cap exists on the amount of the credit.