As with most misunderstood technologies, a barrage of myths and misconceptions exist.
Unfortunately, geothermal is not immune. While these types of systems certainly have their limitations, the same is true about any type of heating and cooling system you could install in your home. But if you are really trying to evaluate whether or not a geothermal heating and cooling system is right for your needs, you will first need to sort the facts from fiction.
Geothermal is a new technology. Fact: Archaeological evidence shows that over 10,000 years ago the North American Paleo-Indians settled near hot springs and were the first humans to use geothermal energy. Since many people live in areas without those hot springs, another way of harnessing the earth's renewable energy was needed.
So, in 1948 Professor Carl Nielsen of Ohio State University developed the first groundwater heat pump, for use at his residence. While modern advances in technology have increased the efficiency of these machines, the concept remains the same. Today, 85,000 geothermal heat pumps are installed annually across the United States and geothermal energy is considered an important step toward energy efficiency and the reduction of global warming.
Geothermal is not ideal for area's with harsh winter weather. Fact: Although many parts of the country experience seasonal temperature extremes, from scorching heat in the summer to sub-zero cold in the winter a few feet below the earth's surface, the ground remains at a relatively constant 55 degrees. So when the outside temperature is below freezing, a geothermal heat pump should have no trouble extracting enough heat to keep your home 72 degrees or more. Even when the ground freezes, the frost usually only extends three or four feet below the surface which is not deep enough to effect the geothermal loop pipes which should be buried at least 7 feet below the surface.
A traditional heating system is required as a backup to a geothermal heat pump. Fact: A geothermal heat pump is capable of providing consistent and adequate heating and cooling for your entire house as long as it is properly sized and installed. Make sure you only work with a contractor that is experienced and qualified in geothermal heat pump design and installation to avoid any problems.
Geothermal heat pumps can only be installed on large properties that are free of unsuitableterrain. Fact: As it turns out, geothermal is flexible and able to accommodate a variety of landscapes, from rocky, small-sized lots, to sprawling acreage. Numerous loop field installations have made it possible to install a geothermal system just about anywhere.
Geothermal installations are only available for new construction. Fact: It is true that a geothermal heat pump installation can be more convenient during the construction. However, geothermal heat pumps also provide a great option for replacing or upgrading an existing heating and cooling system to take advantage of this clean, safe and renewable energy.
This expert insight is by Jake Rabe, co-owner of Rabe Hardware and an experienced geothermal installer. Rabe Hardware is an Enertech dealer.
Jake Rabe grew up around the family business, Rabe Hardware Inc., where he began learning about home mechanical services at an early age. He joined the Marine Corp and served as an F-18 fighter jet mechanic during the Gulf War. In 1994, Jake and his wife became owners of Rabe Hardware and have since developed the business into Iowa’s leader in the geothermal industry. Jake has more than 17 years experience and has done more than 1,500 geothermal installations.