Guest Blog by Jay Egg 

Why GeothermalGeothermal Heating and Cooling has been around for decades. Solar PV and high-efficiency air source systems seem to be popping up all over. Is the geothermal HVAC market slipping submissively into slumber? Well, I’ll tell you what I know –

Green technologies for home and business may seem to have reached a level of complacency, and geothermal HVAC is still just a small slice of that pie. I can assure you that the next plateaus for which we are waiting have “geothermal” written all over them.

The issue is reduction of kWh consumption. The more peak load we can take off of the electrical grid, the fewer power plants we need. But are people buying into it? Green projects accounted for 20% of all newly built homes in the US last year. Thehe Wall Street Journal predicted that we can expect to see up to 300% growth in green housing projects. Geothermal is certainly a big part of that growth.

Geothermal HVAC systems used to be overwhelmingly cost effective against natural gas (and it still is against propane and other heating sources). But history has shown us that we should not be fooled by artificially low energy prices.  In this 2012 article, Sustainable Plant reports, “Low natural gas prices won’t last, because way too many folks are making far too many plans to cash in.” And when energy prices do increase, many will make the “surprised” face.  Green movement number two is on the way, and for more reasons than just increasing energy costs.

We are at a level of sustainability in heating and air conditioning that is in the dark ages.  With standard air source heat pump efficiencies up significantly, why pay more for geothermal?  What else does geothermal HVAC have that will convince builders and customers to make the switch?

Geothermal HVAC technologies provide many impressive and tangible benefits, most of which have not been marketed in a way that sticks with us. For example, Geo is among the only “invisible and out of sight” sustainable and renewable technologies employed in home and business today. When the neighbors have a “beautiful and impressive” array of solar PV cells on their roof, an uninformed buyer might reconsider investing roughly the same amount into a geothermal HVAC system, even though financially, the Geo makes more sense.

The fact is, geothermal HVAC systems remove up to four times more kilowatts hours of consumption from the electrical grid per dollar spent than photovoltaic can add to the electrical grid per dollar spent.* Homes and businesses desiring a Net Zero status come closer to making that a reality by first implementing geothermal HVAC technologies. When considering a Net Zero application, this significantly reduces the size of the PV array, and related costs. The real solutions in Net Zero applications are summed up by the statement, ““Giant arrays of solar panels produce power, while tankless hot water and geo-thermal air conditioning reduce demand.” from the news report, “Downtown St. Pete boasts new, ‘net-zero’ building”.

Now back to some of the tangible assets of geothermal HVAC technologies. With Geo, we get:

1.  Elimination of outdoor equipment

2.  Storm proofing (geothermal equipment is sheltered from storm events)

3.  Longevity of system (a result of all indoor equipment)

4.  Elimination of fresh water consumption (from commercial cooling towers)

5.  Elimination of fossil fuel consumption (on-site)

6.  Superior comfort in heating and cooling modes

7.  Enabling thermal load sharing (pool, DHW, air-conditioning)

8.  Efficiency of system (up to 40 EER)

*Based on installed cost of $5.90/watt from report “Tracking the Sun VI, An Historical Summary of Installed Price of Photovoltaics, July 2013 Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory” when compared to installed cost of electrically powered geothermal heating and cooling ($6000/ton) with a Coefficient of Performance of 4.0

About the Author

Jay Egg is a licensed geothermal consultant and the owner of EggGeothermal. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems published by McGraw Hill.  He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com

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