Geothermal Systems in Austin, Texas
Did you know that the most efficient energy source for heating and cooling your home could be in your own backyard? In fact, it could be your backyard.
Unlike the outdoor air temperature, which fluctuates with the seasons, the temperature below the earth’s surface is both moderate and consistent – about 55 degrees. Geothermal systems leverage this moderate temperature to condition your home.
A geothermal heat pump is also referred to as a ground-source heat pump. Conventional systems are air-source, meaning they transfer heat to and from the outdoor air to your home. Because geothermal systems rely on more moderate temperatures than conventional systems, they are able to condition homes more efficiently. In other words, they don’t have to work as hard because they have a smaller temperature gap to make up. For this reason, switching from a conventional to a geothermal system typically reduces the cost of heating and cooling a home by 30% to 60%.
Geothermal systems do not require above-ground equipment outside because they draw their heat from the ground instead of the air. This offers three main benefits.
- First, because the above-ground unit is installed indoors, it is not subject to the wear and tear of the elements. This decreases its maintenance costs and increases its lifespan. It is not uncommon for a geothermal heat pump to last more than 20 years and for the underground infrastructure to last up to 50 years. Most manufacturers offer a 10-year warranty on equipment parts and a 50-year warranty on the underground piping.
- Second, not having any visible outdoor equipment frees up yard space and removes what most people consider an eyesore.
- Third, geothermal heat humps are some of the quietest heating and cooling units on the market. This is because, unlike conventional systems, they don’t have outside fans and are housed in highly insulated “cabinets.” You’ll hear a geothermal heat pump about as much as you hear your refrigerator or freezer.
How it works
Geothermal systems use small amounts of electricity to transfer heat to and from the earth to your home. They do this transfer through underground pipes, which are collectively referred to as a “loop.” Water circulates through the loop, carrying heat to and from an indoor heat pump.
In the cooler months, the water absorbs the earth’s heat, and the loop carries it to the heat pump so it can be used to heat your home.
In the warmer months, the system extracts the heat from your home and deposits it into the ground. The ground cools the water and carries it back to the heat pump, so it can be used to air condition your home.
During the cooling cycle, your geothermal system can also store enough heat to efficiently produce some or all of your hot water – for free. It does this by taking the heat it removes from your home and delivering it to a heater instead of depositing it in the ground.
When considering a geothermal system, you must take space into account. A professional well driller will need to put the underground loop system in place, which means you must have enough space for a drill rig to enter the installation area. You also need to have enough land to accommodate the size loop system you need. Typically, a well driller will drill one hole for each ton of geothermal equipment, and these holes need to be 20 feet apart. We will determine what size system will meet your needs and whether your property will allow for installation.
Retrofit vs. New Construction
While it’s definitely possible to retrofit existing homes with geothermal systems (we do it all the time), it’s easier and more convenient to install them during new construction – when there’s other construction equipment on your property, there are fewer barriers to accessing the installation area and there is no landscaping yet in place. When you include a geothermal system in the construction of a new home, you also get the added benefit of being able to roll the cost into your mortgage. The money you’ll save on operating costs will typically offset your mortgage increase.
While a geothermal system does offer a variety of benefits, it also comes with a higher upfront cost – typically 60% higher – than a conventional system. So, when you’re considering a geothermal system, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. A geothermal system, while more expensive to install, is less expensive to own. It is an investment that will pay for itself – often within 3 to 5 years – through longer lifespan and lower operating costs. In addition, through 2016, the federal government is offering a 30% federal tax credit to offset the cost of installation.