Problems With Geothermal Home Heating Systems

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Geothermal home heating systems, used in conjunction with geothermal cooling, are a more energy-efficient means to heat and cool your house. Geothermal heating works by circulating water, or water/antifreeze solution, through a closed loop. The loop is constructed of polyethylene pipe that is buried in the ground or beneath water, either vertically from 50 feet to 250 feet deep, depending on where you live, or horizontally 3 feet to 6 feet deep under the surface. Because the technology is fairly new, there are a number of problems facing consumers interested in investing in a geothermal system.

Cost

  • The biggest problem with geothermal heating is the initial cost of purchase, as it can run several thousands of dollars for the unit itself, plus installation. This cost, however, is soon paid back in the form of savings. Households will likely see anywhere from 40 percent to 70 percent savings in heating costs and 30 percent to 50 percent savings in cooling costs compared to conventional heating and cooling systems, depending on the region. On top of this, the initial cost can now be reduced by up to 30 percent when you factor in rebates from state and federal green stimulus programs just for installing an energy-efficient geothermal home heating system.

Regional

  • Another problem with geothermal heating systems is their efficiency. In northern parts of the country, the ground remains colder during winter seasons, making the unit run slightly less efficiently.

    To offset this regional problem, there are products such as electric-resistant heaters, or "desuperheaters," which cost an additional $500 or more dollars. Once a desuperheater is installed, the geothermal system will still run optimally with only an added $30 to $40 dollars a year operating expense and will also provide up to 60 percent of a home’s domestic hot water, according to Merle Henkenius with Popular Mechanics.

Specialists

  • Geothermal technology has been around for a few decades, but only a handful of companies provide geothermal heating systems. For this reason, finding a provider for geothermal home heating can be difficult. And finding technicians capable of repairing such a unit can be equally difficult, depending on where you live. Geothermal technology made up only 1 percent of heating units in the country in 1998, with only 150,000 homes equipped with geothermal heating. The technology has, however, gained considerable momentum in terms of both awareness and application with the advent of green living and with government subsidies offering rebates, reduced utility bills and other incentives to entice homeowners.

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  • Photo Credit warming hands image by Brett Mulcahy from Fotolia.com
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