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...ALL-ELECTRIC-Life - Part V – Hello Geo(thermal), How Ya Doin?

By Allen Hibner: In the December, 2020 “…ALL-ELECTRIC-Life – Part IV” blog article that I wrote (click here to read that article) describing dual-fuel “hybrid” heating and cooling systems (heat pump installed with a natural gas furnace), I stated that I would be going ahead to obtain a quotation for such a system for my own home. Well, I did do that, but I also was inspired to go much farther in the past two months. I decided to go all the way and get a quotation for a full-on Geothermal heating, cooling and hot water producing system for my home. Armed with quotes for dual-fuel and geothermal systems, I’m right in the midst now of a very big decision. In Part V of this blog series, it’s time for me to explain to readers some of the pros and cons of going geothermal that I have learned about to-date. So, let’s get to work…

To remind readers, I currently have a 21-year-old A/C system combined with a 12-year-old natural gas furnace to heat and cool my 1950’s raised ranch Penfield home. I’ve been thinking about updating or replacing part or all of it. The central tenet of this “…ALL-ELECTRIC-Life” blog series follows here once again:

Geothermal heating, cooling and hot-water generating systems are actually heat pumps: ground source heat pumps. Closed loops or vertical lengths of flexible plastic piping are buried underground or placed in ponds (several feet below the surface where it does not freeze) as shown in the image below. The pipes are filled with an anti-freeze liquid mixture and connected to the heat-pump unit (furnace) in the home. As shown in the very first image in this article, heat is extracted from the ground in winter to warm your home and expelled into the ground in summer to cool it. Here’s the magic, or “secret sauce” of geothermal systems: a few feet down, the ground temperature stays the same (42-57 degrees Fahrenheit depending on your location in NY State) all year-round. Geothermal systems, therefore, are much more efficient than air-source heat pumps, which must make heat in the winter from air temperatures that often dip well below freezing and expel heat from inside a home into summertime air that can easily surpass 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. This inherent stability of the ground temperature all year round makes these systems the most efficient way to heat and cool your home - the outright winner! The compressor unit inside the heat pump of a geothermal system simply does not need to work as hard, saving lots of electricity along the way, year after year. Installing such a system is a very attractive idea to me. Potentially even more attractive of an idea than installing an air source heat pump for my whole house heating and cooling needs.

As always, however, there are pros and cons to installing any HVAC system, even a super-efficient geothermal system. Just like in Part IV of this blog series, I found an excellent article online, “Geothermal Heat Pump Costs and Guide 2020,” that details these pros and cons far better than I can.

Let me quote directly from that article here:

Again, quoting directly from the article noted above, what things should I as a homeowner think about as I decide between installing an air-source or a ground-source heat pump in my home for heating & cooling?

Geothermal vs Air-Source Heat Pumps

Where can you obtain even more local assistance to explore geothermal or ground-source heat pumps? We have a phenomenal resource right here in the Rochester regional area. I strongly encourage you to visit HeatSMART Monroe of the Finger Lakes to learn more. Enroll with HeatSMART Monroe here (at no cost or obligation to you) to obtain more information from one of the program's installer/partners about these systems.

Lastly, in Part VI of this blog series next month in March, I will reveal to all of you my final decision; air-source (dual fuel hybrid system) OR… ground-source (geothermal system) and why I made it. After you learn what system I selected to be installed in our home during the coming months, I will continue my ...ALL-ELECTRIC-Life blog series going forward with several articles on my day-to-day experience having the system installed and living with it over time. As always, thank you so much for your continued interest in these blog articles. I hope that what you are learning from them is in some small measure helping you to decide if your family will be going “ALL-ELECTRIC” too for your home’s heating and cooling needs.

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