Geothermal heating and cooling pays off in comfort and lower energy bills

Geothermal heating and cooling pays off in comfort and lower energy bills

For Tim and Rita Williams, geothermal heating and cooling made their new house feel like a home. Their previous house had an air-source heat pump for heating and cooling. But the new home, which they moved into in November 2011, was designed for a ground-source heat pump, also known as a geothermal system.

With the geothermal system, the Williams couldn't believe the difference.

"I was used to a heat pump which seemed like it blew out cold air during the winter," Tim Williams said. "Our geothermal system puts out nice, warm, moist heat and the air conditioning is the coldest I've ever had."

The Williams home was built to be energy efficient from the ground up, literally. There's closed-cell foam insulation in the basement and the exterior walls are six inches thick filled with cellulose insulation. In the attic the insulation is R-49 cellulose as well.

Tim knew he wanted a geothermal system to be part of his new home. For that he called on Fowler Heating and Cooling, a GeoComfort Geothermal System dealer for Enertech Global LLC in Marion, Ill.

Fowler Heating and Cooling is a family owned business serving Southern Illinois.

Today, geothermal systems are becoming more and more popular for Fowler Heating and Cooling customers. The 30 percent federal tax credit for geothermal installations available through 2016 is one factor driving interest, said Paul Gabby, manager for Fowler. But there are other reasons as well

"The fact is, it's the most energy efficient way to heat and cool and the most comfortable system that's available as well," Gabby said.

 Geothermal Basics

A geothermal heating and cooling system harnesses the sustainable energy of the earth. The ground-source or geothermal heat pump exchanges heat with the ground via a pipe system buried under ground. Compare that with the more common but less efficient air-source heat pump that uses the outside air to exchange heat.

The geothermal system takes advantage of the fact that a few feet under the surface of the earth the ground maintains a constant temperature regardless of the air temperature.

The Williams' geothermal system is a standard forced-air system, divided into four zones. Each zone can be regulated via dampers in the ducts to provide the desired temperature for each zone. It has a vertical loop system with five wells, each 185 feet deep.

 Benefits of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

After receiving his November 2012 utility bills, Tim Williams was a happy man. His electric bill for the whole house was $71 and his gas bill was $52. During the heat of last summer, his highest electric bill was $130 for the house, including air conditioning by the geothermal system for the 4,800 square-foot house on two levels.

"My bills are phenomenally low I think," he said.

Focus on Quality 

 For a geothermal system perform to its full potential, it has to be installed properly, Gabby noted. Working with an experienced, knowledgeable dealer and installer is perhaps the most critical decision.

"The most important day of your unit's life is the day it's installed," Gabby said. "If the installation is shoddy, if the duct work is not installed correctly or if someone tries to cut corners, then you have to live with that or go spend the money to have it replaced."

Looking back on his first year with a geothermal system, Tim Williams was enthusiastic.

 "I'm well satisfied and glad I went with geothermal," he said. "I'd most definitely recommend it to other people."

Read more about geothermal heating and cooling.

Topics: Geothermal Heating & Cooling

Companies: Enertech Global, LLC, Fowler Heating & Geothermal & Cooling

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