Many clients hear about geothermal heating and cooling solutions and wonder if it is merely a buzzword in today’s ‘green’ environment. From all of my experience though, geothermal is absolutely a cost effective means of heating and cooling that will most likely pay for itself over time.
One thing to understand first is the upfront cost. No doubt geothermal adds a significant upfront cost to the project (about $5/SQ FT), but let's consider the lifetime of the well field with a ground heat exchanger boasting a 50+ year lifetime. Compare that to conventional mechanical equipment with a chiller and boiler that, on average, will have to be replaced 2 or 3 times in that same 50+ span.
Clients also ask about natural gas as an alternative to geothermal with the perception that it is ‘cheap’ now and always will be. While it is true that natural gas is projected to be relatively inexpensive and plentiful for the next 20 years, it is unknown what happens beyond that timeframe. Also, what about the term 'projected'? In reality there are little guarantees with utility rates, especially one lasting 50 years. Geothermal, however, offers this guarantee, producing water temperatures between 45 and 85 degrees year after year. Geothermal is commonly compared to a battery—it adds heat and energy to the ground during summer and uses that stored heat/energy in the winter. This results in a more constant utility bill throughout the lifetime of the system.
And let’s not forget maintenance. Unlike the conventional central heating and cooling system, the ground heat exchanger has zero moving parts. This, in combination with the 50+ years life expectancy of high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe gives a central system with no replacement parts and no maintenance.
For these reasons, and from what I’ve seen our clients benefit from, geothermal is the most efficient central heating and cooling system available today.