Geothermal FAQ

What is Geothermal Heating?

Geothermal heating is a method of heating a structure that uses a ground source heat pump to remove heat from the earth and put it into your home. The systems are many times more efficient at space conditioning than conventional systems, and are saving regular households thousands of dollars per year on heating costs. These systems can be residential or commercial, and can work in almost any climate and soil type for both heating and cooling.

How efficient is a geothermal ground source heating system?

Geothermal ground source heating systems are the most efficient heating and cooling systems available today. The heat energy they deliver already exists and they just need to move it into the home. For every one unit of electricity the heat pump consumes it can deliver 3 to 4 times that amount of heat energy. This works out to be 300% to 400% operational efficiency. For cooling, they are 20-40% more efficient than air conditioners which are simply air source heat pumps.

What about comfort?

It will depend on the distribution system you choose to install. Radiant Heat systems provide even space heating to make rooms very comfortable, and are becoming the heating system of choice. Geothermal heating can also use a forced air system to deliver the heat. Warm air (90°-105° F) is circulated in higher volumes through the duct system, which warms the building more thoroughly, providing even heat without hot or cold spots, or the cold air blasts that are common with fuel furnaces.

Can these systems cool also?

Yes, the very same system can provide heating and cooling. The cooling works better if the distribution is forced air rather than a radiant floor. In order to effectively meet a cooling load we need to be able to remove excess humidity from the air and only forced air systems can do that. In dry climates radiant floor systems can be used to some effect at cooling a space but it should not be thought of as air conditioning.

How does 40° Fahrenheit water from the ground provide heat?

A heat pump extracts the heat with a refrigeration process. It is the very same process that is used in your refrigerator or air conditioner only back wards. If you understand how air conditioning works then you understand how we can use 40° water to make 120° water.

What is the life of my GSHP?

GSHP’s are as durable and reliable as a conventional heat system and if properly installed will provide decades of operation. The heat pumps themselves have factory warranties up to ten years and are expected to have a service life of 25 to 30 years. The earth loops are made of poly pipe that can last several hundred years.

How noisy is a GSHP?

Ground source heat pumps are relatively quiet because most use scroll type compressors which are known for their quiet operation. Each manufacture has different methods of reducing vibrations and insulating the cabinet to further reduce noise. The installation should also be done to minimize noise by properly securing piping and or using non ridged connections that will not transfer vibrations into the pipes.

How safe is a GSHP unit?

The GSHP systems are very safe and protected. There is nothing burned, so there is no flammable fuel or toxic fumes anywhere. There is no potential for deadly and orderless carbon monoxide to fill your home while you sleep.

How much can I save on heating and cooling?

Ground source heat pumps deliver heat at 400% efficiency. They operate on electricity. Depending on what we are comparing it to, you can expect savings of up to 70% on what you would pay for conventional heat. Consider the average Montana home that is using propane as it primary means of heat will spend $2000 per year for domestic heat and heat for the domestic water. A geothermal system could provide that same energy for $600. That’s a savings of $1,400 every year! Easily enough for the payment to pay off the system.

Where can these systems be installed?

Virtually anywhere. There are several ways to tap into the earth’s energy and a site specific review will determine the most cost effective way.

Can Geothermal Heat Pumps be installed in retrofit situations?

Yes, but some structures and locations are more ideal than others. The existing distribution will need to be able to be compatible with the lower temperatures of geothermal (120 Fahrenheit). Radiant floors are an ideal distribution system. High temp radiators are not ideal and some type of supplemental heat would be required.

Can geothermal heating be used with forced air distribution?

Yes, but the duct work should be sized for a larger volume of air than would be used with a furnace. The lower temperature air that will be distributed to the room needs to be delivered in greater quantities than the high temp air a furnace provides. The comfort level of geothermal systems exceeds that of a furnace because the air is not as dry, there is more air exchange and fewer cold or hot spots in the home.