June and July are the height of gardening season in North Carolina, when most homeowners look to improve their landscaping by planting new flowers and shrubs around their houses. And if you’ve ever been one of these “green thumbed” folks, you’ve probably been surprised at how cool the soil can be just a spadeful down in the garden, especially as compared to the sweltering temperatures above- ground.
Unlike the air temperature variations that occur between summer and winter, underground temperatures remain relatively consistent at about 60 degrees. Geothermal systems exploit this free and abundant resource of energy to help offset temperatures for homes; keeping them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern Technology
Modern geothermal systems take advantage of a natural phenomenon that has been recognized for thousands of years. There’s a reason that we refer to our ancient predecessors as “cavemen” – they were smart enough to realize the energy savings implicit in the consistent temperatures that came from living in caves!
Today, high-tech companies like WaterFurnace bring the same principles to above ground homes. Long loops of piping are drilled and installed below ground in either a horizontal or vertical pattern, pushing surface temperature water down into the consistent temperatures of the earth, and back up to heat or cool your home.
A Quietly Efficient Home
Geothermal systems do require a bit of temporary upheaval to install. Drilling the earth to install the geothermal loops can require digging up a small or large portion of your yard (depending on whether you’ve chosen a vertical or horizontal loop configuration). However, once installed, the system is virtually silent – a heating and cooling pump installed in your crawlspace runs the system, cooling or heating the air in the home to the temperate 60 degree range. Often times, our homeowners comment that they didn’t realize how noisy their own furnaces or air conditioning units were until they were virtually replaced with the quiet geothermal system that does 70% of the same work!
Treasure in Your Backyard
Just a few feet below your lawn is a huge free source of heating and cooling for your home, which can reduce your energy bills by 40-70%. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency says that geothermal technology is the most cost effective solution available for regulating your home’s temperature. Installing a geothermal system is like digging for buried treasure – the treasure being hundred of dollars in savings on your energy bill year-round.
A Smart Investment
Geothermal systems have long life-spans, with most warranties extending beyond 10 years, which significantly increase the value of your home. And, depending on the efficiency of the existing system, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to recoup their installation costs in as little as 5 years.
Best of all, because geothermal systems are nationally recognized as the most cost-effective systems for heating and cooling a home, both state and federal governments have developed robust incentive programs for helping homeowners afford installation. In North Carolina, homeowners can receive tax credits that pay for up to 65% of the system installation costs.
If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck in improving your home’s value and dramatically reducing your energy costs (not to mention your carbon footprint on the planet), it makes sense to dig up impressive savings with geothermal heating and cooling.
Bobby Ferrel is co-founder of Green Horizon, with offices in Durham and Charlotte, offering home owners and builders a one-stop shop for energy efficiency and green building. Services include energy audits, weatherization, closed crawl spaces, insulation, HVAC installation and maintenance, rainwater harvesting and geothermal heating and cooling.