Are Geothermal Heat Pumps Worth It?

Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), which provide both heating and air conditioning in your home, and also have the capability to heat your water (sometimes for free), have become increasingly popular in recent years. These HVAC appliances are amazingly efficient and “green” compared to traditional options, as they harness the nearly constant temperatures under the ground to keep your home comfortable in every season.

Geothermal systems deliver serious energy savings over time, too.

However, there are drawbacks and many things to consider as you look to install a GHP. These systems come with a hefty initial price tag, as well as a long list of site criteria that must be met before installation can take place. In other words, GHPs are not going to be right for every home or every homeowner despite their many advantages.

Today we’re taking a closer look at why the answer to whether geothermal heat pumps are worth the investment is, “it depends.” Your priorities, your budget, and your home’s physical location will ultimately help you make the best decision about what type of HVAC system is right for you.

Geothermal systems are sustainable and eco-friendly

It’s true that geothermal heat pumps use 25% to 50% less electricity than conventional HVAC systems. This means that your geothermal system will also reduce emissions as it drastically cuts your home’s energy usage, and that’s definitely environmentally friendly!

Geothermal equipment also lasts for a long time, with underground piping often warrantied for 25-50 years. The heat pumps themselves are usually guaranteed to last about 20 years. Compare that to the average lifespan of 15 years for a typical home air conditioning unit or heat pump, and you will see that less frequent equipment replacement is much better for the world (and your wallet, too).

Geothermal systems are an investment that pays off

As you’re shopping for geothermal heat pumps, you might raise your eyebrows a few times at the prices you’re quoted (typically between $10,000 and $20,000, including installation). It’s important to remember that GHPs require a closed or open loop pipe system under the ground outside your home, which acts as a heat exchanger. Excavation is involved in installing and burying the piping, and that adds expense. This system does feature equipment with fewer moving mechanical parts than a traditional system, though, which is why it lasts so much longer.

The good news about the more substantial initial investment needed for GHP-based systems is that they will generally pay for themselves with energy cost savings in about 2-10 years, according to energy industry sources. There are also special green energy incentives available from federal, state, and even certain local government entities and power providers to shave some dollars off that high initial price tag for the system. And, depending on your system’s setup and capabilities, you will be able to reap the reward of free hot water as a by-product of system operations!

If you are able to roll the cost of the new GHP into your mortgage for a new home, your savings will be even greater. The system’s cost will not actually add that much extra to your monthly mortgage payment, and the energy cost savings you realize will easily exceed that amount throughout each year.

Geothermal systems are great for new homes

Speaking of adding a GHP to the plans for your new home, it’s true that geothermal systems are easier (and possibly less expensive, depending on things like soil condition and geology at your new home site) to build from the ground up with a new home than they are for retrofits in most existing homes. Why?

  • Many older homes that rely on a boiler and hot water radiators for heat lack the necessary ductwork required for central air conditioning systems. GHPs need ductwork to distribute both warmed and cooled air throughout your home depending on the season.
  • With new construction, there are fewer considerations regarding how to make a GHP’s accompanying underground refrigerant loops fit the home site. An existing home and other structures on a property can present land availability problems and expensive engineering obstacles.

Adding a new geothermal HVAC system to your existing home may not be impossible, but sometimes higher costs for installation are a reality in retrofit projects. Adding ductwork to your home or having to complete land engineering work to know where refrigerant loops can be installed without disturbing current structures, underground utilities, or mature landscaping like large shade trees can drive up total pricing.

Depending upon your priorities, geothermal could be an excellent option for your new home or commercial building. In addition to the advantages of GHPs that we already discussed, these systems can be scaled to heat and cool virtually any size building efficiently.

So are geothermal heat pumps worth it? In the opinion of many HVAC experts, absolutely. However, only careful research and consultation with those experts will show you if they are worth it for you and your home.

Ready to talk geothermal heat pumps for your new or existing home or commercial property? Ressler & Mateer has the specialized technical knowledge required to install these systems the right way. Not many of our competitors can claim to be so qualified. Give us a call today to discuss your new or retrofit project goals.