How do geothermal heat pumps work?

Geothermal heat pumps are growing in usage and popularity for good reason. They offer drastic savings on energy bills and are a clean, renewable energy source.

How do geothermal heat pumps gain such impressive credentials?

To put it simply, instead of burning fuel to create warm air, geothermal heat pumps move warm air from one place to another to create comfortable temperatures in your home.

During hot seasons, heat pumps move warm air out of your home to create cooler air temperatures, the equivalent of air conditioning. During cold weather, heat pumps move warm air into your house to increase the temperature.

Where do heat pumps get the warmth for houses in the winter? Where do they put the heat from the air during the sizzle of summer?

The ground. The “geo” part of geothermal.

The earth under our feet is the ultimate sustainable resource that maintains a constant temperature of about 54 degrees below the frostline. Heat pumps work by harnessing the power of that constant temperature, and exchanging it for the “too hot” or “too cool” temps in your house up above.

Geothermal heat pump parts 

Heat pumps use three main components. The elements transfer warmth from the ground to your home in the winter or direct heat away from your house into the ground during the summer.

Earth Connection Subsystem

A series of pipes are installed underground horizontally or dug deep vertically. Liquids such as antifreeze and water are pumped through the pipes, either absorbing heat or transferring heat to the soil.

Heat Pump Subsystem

The fluid moves from the pipes into the heat pump system, where the heat or cold is extracted and concentrated in a compressor, then mixed with air in a blower.

Head Distribution Subsystem

The warm or cool air is distributed throughout the home through conventional ductwork and vents.

The above-ground parts of the system are relatively small compared to an HVAC system. The heat pump itself lives inside the home, with no noisy external unit.

Additionally, because heat pumps have few moving parts, they’re low-maintenance and don’t require as much maintenance as HVAC systems.

Is a geothermal heat pump right for me? 

Even wIth all the benefits of this sustainable, cost-effective system, it may not be the right choice for every homeowner simply because it’s expensive to install.

Depending on the system, topography, soil, and other factors, heat pump installations can cost upwards of $20,000. Retrofitting an existing house with a heat pump is typically more expensive than inclusion with new construction.

However, the initial costs pay for themselves over the life of the system, which is typically 25 years for the indoor components–much longer than a traditional HVAC system with a 15-year life. The underground pipes of a heat pump system last as long as 50 years.

If you plan on staying in your home for the next decade or longer, a heat pump canpay for itself through energy cost savings.

It’s worthwhile to calculate those savings by taking your current energy expenses and applying the efficiency rate of the heat pump system you’re considering to see how much your electricity bill will drop. Then compare that savings to the cost of the installation divided out on a monthly or yearly basis to identify the time before the heat pump pays for itself.

Another factor to consider is the federal government currently offers tax credits for energy efficient systems, including geothermal heat pumps. However, the value of the credit is gradually decreasing until it expires on December 31, 2021. To take advantage of the maximum value of the credit, your heat pump will have to be in place before the end of 2019.

McElroy’s is the right call for trusted expertise and exceptional craftsmanship in geothermal heat pump installation. Give us a call to talk over your options and get started on saving with your new heat pump.

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