Bonne Terre Mine just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, boasts a year round temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit nearly 100 feet underground. Whether it is 100 degrees and humid or 20 degrees and snowing, the mine remains at a constant temperature. Most of the time the caverns deep underground feel like the perfect temperature—not too hot and not too cold. Why? Because temperature fluctuation deep underground is minute at best no matter what time of year. It takes a lot of energy to heat or cool a large mass deep underground. The development of geothermal systems allows us to tap this resource to heat and cool our houses.
Laid a few to hundreds of feet into the ground depending on your location, geothermal systems utilize pipes to carry cool water away from the house, down into the ground to reheat, than return to the unit in the house in the winter. In the summer, the process is reversed to remove heat from your house. A fan and compressor inside the thermal unit move the air through the ducts in the house. For heating, however, some geothermal systems use what’s called radiant floor heating rather than blowing hot air through the ducts. While most use a geothermal unit for heating or cooling their house, some people also use geothermal systems to reduce water heating costs.
I know you’re wondering what the cost of a geothermal system is. They aren’t really cheap by any means, running from a $5,000 to $30,000 or more. The initial cost may be steep; however, with a 30% tax credit from the government plus dropping your energy bill costs, many geothermal system owners note that their system paid itself off in about 10-15 years.
Additionally, some energy companies provide additional discounts. DTE Energy here in southeast Michigan offers special rates that can save geothermal users money on their monthly bills. Call your local energy provider or visit their website for more details and if they offer a similar program.
With less moving parts than traditional furnace or air conditioning systems, experts note geothermal systems cost less to maintain over time. Owners conduct regular checks of the system to ensure it’s performing at its peak efficiency, but other than that, no additional maintenance is really necessary. And because the system is partially underground and in your house, it’s protected from external damage, such as weather.
Another major benefit of geothermal systems is that they are safer than conventional furnace systems. Most people worry about their carbon monoxide poisoning produced by gas-fueled appliances like furnace systems. Since geothermal systems use electrical power, which can come from your regular electrical hook up or solar power, and cycle water through the pipe system, the possibility of producing any kind of noxious fumes are nearly impossible.
Yes, a geothermal system isn’t cheap. However, the long term benefits of the system make it something to think about for your home. Not only can it help save you money over time, but it may also make your house appealing for future buyers if you sell.
Speaking with a licensed and trusted geothermal builder and getting a quote on a system for your house certainly can’t hurt–especially if it can save you money in the future, lower your carbon footprint, and ensure a safer home for your family. You might even find out a geothermal system for your home is more affordable than you think.