We know that the installation of a geothermal system requires more money up front than a traditional heating/cooling system. However, this is offset by the significant difference in long term operating costs. In one instance, looking over 20 years, the total operating costs were 54 percent lower with a geothermal system. Your qualified contractor can use your existing utility costs to demonstrate what the pay back would be in your situation.
Rebates and reductions
First, the initial expenses can be offset by the 30 percent federal tax credit available on the total installation. This includes labor and materials of the geothermal equipment including the wells or loops if included in your system.
Second, there are utility company rebates available in many areas. I've seen these vary from $400-$600 per ton (1 ton = 12,000 BTU). Additionally, the utility company may offer off peak rates which can reduce your costs further. However, in an off peak scenario, you may need a secondary heating source since the system will be cycled off on their schedule. If combining an existing system, you could use your current furnace as the secondary source.
Also, many state and local governments have rebates available. Please check with local government to see what programs are currently available in your area.
Including geothermal with an existing system
There are ways to modify the existing system in your current home to take advantage of geothermal heating and cooling. For example, adding a geo coil on top of your existing furnace. The coil would be used to combine the power of geothermal with your current system. This could be either a refrigerant or water type coil. A water coil would be used if you already have infloor heating. A refrigerant coil would be used if you don't have in-floor heating.
If you combine geothermal with an existing system the fan is the only part that used (except with off peak). If it fails, simply repair or replace the blower motor.
Also, system control options for new or existing systems make it possible to monitor and control your thermostat with your computer or smart phone.
What's possible on your property?
Also, take a good look at your yard and ask yourself a few questions: is there enough room to put in vertical wells? Horizontal loops? Or, even buried slinky loops? How deep is your property? The answers to these questions can determine what options are available to you. A larger area provides more options. This is a good item to discuss with your qualified contractor.
Okay, so what are wells and loops?
Vertical well — it's a deep hole where a drilling rig is used to bore holes at a depth of 150-300 feet per ton. Normally, this would be used when the land area is limited, or when retrofitting an existing system.
Horizontal loops — these are installed using directional boring machines to place horizontal holes in lengths from 100-300 feet per ton depending on the specific design. They are commonly used when adequate land is available.
Air filtration is a major consideration for people with small children, respiratory or allergy concerns. There are several options from basic filters to ultraviolet or electronic filters.
This is by no means a complete list of considerations when evaluating geothermal for your energy needs. However, these are a few examples we have recently discussed with customers that are contemplating using a geothermal system or a geothermal addition to an existing system. Remember, the main object is to provide you with a heating and cooling system that will keep you and your family comfortable for many years in an economical and environmentally friendly way. Geothermal can do this for you.
This expert insight brought to you by Robert Johnson, co-owner of from Brogard Plumbing, Heating & Excavating in Henning, Minn. and an Enertech geothermal dealer.
Robert Johnson is the co-owner of from Brogard Plumbing, Heating & Excavating in Henning, Minn. He's worked in plumbing and heating for over 20 years and has been installing geothermal systems for 11 years. He has deep expertise in geothermal and plumbing, having had his journeyman's plumbing license for the past 19 years.