How Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems Work with Solar

| by Steve Smith
How Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems Work with Solar

The United States ranks eighth out of the world's top energy-consuming countries in efficiency, and 22 percent of that consumption is used in our homes. But, 71 percent of homeowners say they want to be more energy efficient. They want to save money on utility costs and improve the environment for generations to come. 

How can we make homes and buildings more energy-efficient? Combine a geothermal heating, cooling, and hot water system with a solar energy system. To do this correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Tackle easy energy improvements: If your home or building has drafts and the wrong type of – or not enough – insulation, then you're missing easy energy improvements. Use spray foam, caulk, or weather stripping to seal air leaks around doors, floors, walls, ceilings, windows, and fireplaces; the type of sealant needed will depend on the part of the structure you're sealing. Essentially, you want to make your home or building airtight with proper ventilation. I've said it before, proper insulation amount and type is important, too. With insulation, there is an R-value. It is a rating for the insulation's thermal resistance. A higher R-value means better insulation. The R-value your home/building should have depends on where you live. See which R-value you need here. There are also different types of insulation to choose from, including spray foam, fiberglass, mineral wool, and cellulose. To minimize air infiltration, I recommend foam and cellulose. If you seal and insulate properly, then you set yourself for the properly-sized heating and cooling system. 
  2. Install geothermal: Installing a geothermal heating and cooling system cuts heating, cooling, and water costs immediately. Since geothermal heat pumps get 75 percent of the energy they need to run from the earth, they require much less electricity to keep homes warm or cold. Geothermal systems can also deliver hot water to reduce water heating costs by 25 to 40 percent. If you invest in a solar PV system first, you will end up with excess power that you don't get reimbursed for, because geothermal will provide heating, cooling, and hot water using far less energy than a conventional system. Homeowners with a goal of making their home net-zero, or close to it, will benefit from the soft-start and low watt capabilities of a geothermal system. Geothermal systems higher efficiencies require less energy, which reduces the number of solar panels needed to power the home, or it creates more budget for the solar panels to power other parts of the home. Also, it's estimated that installing geothermal drops off the peak summer electric demand by 30 percent, which means more of the national baseload can be generated by other renewables like solar and wind. 
  3. Size your solar system: You will need to decide if you'd like to offset all of your electrical use with your solar system, because the amount of electricity you need to generate from the solar system directly correlates to the number of panels needed. To save on installation and net metering costs, see whether or not your local utility offers any incentives for solar panels. You will need to determine where the solar panels will go, which takes more consideration than you might think. Is there enough roof space for your entire solar array, and if so, is that roof space in the right place to get the amount of sunlight needed? You can put the solar array somewhere else on your property if the roof is not the ideal spot.

Investing in an energy-efficient home or building benefits you and many generations to come. Don't hesitate to pair systems together, but make sure you're doing so in the right order so you have the proper sizing and achieve the greatest efficiencies and savings.

This blog was developed by GeoComfort Geothermal Systems. All posts, sponsored and un-sponsored have been reviewed and approved by the Sustainable Community Media Editorial Team to ensure quality, relevance/usefulness and objectivity.

Topics: Geothermal Heating & Cooling, Heating & Cooling

Companies: GeoComfort Geothermal Systems

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