Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 24 March 2009 14:09
This schematic illustrates how a geothermal unit works in a residential setting.
A lot of Marion County resident might not know many people using geothermal heating and cooling systems. But that could soon change, according to Merle Flaming, president and in charge of sales and management at Flaming’s Heating and Air Conditioning Inc.
Although unfamiliar to most people, the concept and practical application of this system isn’t anything new.
“The technology has been around for 40 years or more,” he said.
But up until a few years ago, the price of installing this type of system was cost prohibitive and not necessarily urgent in the eyes of consumers and developers while natural gas prices were so cheap.
In recent years, though, and with tax credits and financial incentives, plus lowered utility bills and increased energy efficiency, the number of geothermal homes is growing,” he said.
Despite high upfront drilling costs that have made geothermal financially unattractive in the past, its environmental and energy-saving benefits have developers and homeowners viewing the technology as an alternative that is here to stay.
For example, there are 13 GeoComfort units in varying stages of installation going on right now in the area, he said.
Flaming said the geothermal system is an option expected to save homeowners money as the cost of more traditional energy (propane and gas) sources continue to rise.
Developers nationwide are predicting these systems will become the preferred heating and cooling source in the future.
With energy costs fluctuating, Flaming said, developers and homebuyers will be seeing an even wider selection of geothermal options in the residential market.
Because these units use electricity, consumers won’t have the constant worry about propane or gas prices playing havoc with their budgets.
Westar Energy even offers special, lower rates for geothermal customers and a one-time cash payment of $1,000, offering even more savings, Flaming said.
In addition to upfront savings, he said, these systems will save homeowners 30 to 70 percent in heating costs, and 20 to 50 percent in cooling costs, compared to conventional systems.
Geothermal systems also save money because they require much less maintenance.
Along with being highly reliable, Flaming said, the units are built to last for decades and can add considerably on the resale value of a home or building.
How does it work?
In principle, a household refrigerator could be a good parallel to how geothermal heating and cooling works, according to information Flaming provided.
The outside of the fridge might feel hot, while its interior remains cold.
Increase the scale of that and take it underground about 200 feet.
The result is geothermal heating and cooling technology, which works on a similar principal as the household fridge, taking advantage of the fact that the temperature underground —once dug deeper than 10 feet—remains constant no matter the time of year.
In the wintertime, geothermal grabs the heat that's underground and brings it to the surface to warm up your house. It then pushes the heat out to cool a home in summer.
High efficiency, low cost
Geothermal systems utilize the energy-storing ability of the ground, or a body of water, to heat and cool houses.
Energy is either put into the ground during the summer or pulled from it in the winter through a series of continuous pipe loops buried on a person’s property.
Many possible configurations for these loops can be made to accommodate the size and shape of someone’s property.
Flaming said the same duct work will stay in place with options ranging from water to water, air to water, water to air, ground to air when installing the system.
Two stage operation
The system Flaming said his company uses has a two-stage operation that allows it to operate at the most efficient level for all weather conditions — automatically adjusting itself to give the most consistent indoor air temperatures.
On cold winter days the second stage will engage when needed to keep the home warm and comfortable.
During the hottest months the second stage provides additional cooling.
In mild spring and fall months only the first stage is needed to provide optimum indoor comfort.
What does it cost?
In tougher economic times, homeowners need to be careful with their money and wasting those dollars on high energy bills.
With a life span of 30 to 40 years, the system will pay for itself many times over, Flaming said.
The geothermal system and installation would be between $10,000 and $18,000.
When calculating in the added 30 percent tax credit and energy savings, the set up cost can be quickly recouped.
Flaming said by going virtually all-electric, utilities for heating and cooling would run between $30 and $50 a month.
Taking into consideration that propane can cost $300 to $400 a month, it’s easy to see that savings are still savings, he said.
Within nine years, the geo-thermal system will have saved a consumer about $16,000.
Using the earth’s warmth, people choosing this system are reducing their reliance on natural gas or propane and increasing efficiency while spending less money overall.
For more information or to see how a geothermal system can benefit your home or business, call Flaming or Joel Thomas toll-free at 800-466-8413 or 620-382-2181.