Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Geothermal. What is the deal?

A few months ago, we had a huge gurgling hole in our front yard...

What the heck is that?
I never really pay attention to the  kinds of trucks, trailers, or machines that are out at the house. They are always coming and going and they are for digging dirt, lifting trusses, etc etc....but a big gurgling hole...I noticed.

Then, I realized what was happening...They were digging the geothermal!


When we first discussed building a home we had a number of people ask us if we would go geothermal. We were pretty clueless about the entire subject. All we knew that it was "green" and something about holes in the ground. And expensive.

Then we did some research. Mostly with the help of our good friend Google at first. But while getting bids for heating and cooling we asked local professionals for their input to help us understand. We asked friends in the business. We spoke to people that have geothermal systems in their homes already. We watched youtube videos, and even a super boring 25 minute informational DVD about it that we picked up at a home & garden show.

The only way I really understood it was by looking at pictures and charts. And asking lots of questions.

I asked a bunch of questions to help understand too...

For example:

So we don't have a real air conditioner? Not happening.
Actually, the machine that cools the air is really in the basement or utility room, not outdoors like a regular air conditioner. There will still be forced air vents, just like a regular HVAC system, no one will know, except us. (well, and you guys reading this) Plus, it's almost twice as efficient.

How much money will we save?
Apparently, it's hard to tell for sure until until we actually start using it.
Every home is different.
For example, we currently we live in a tiny two bedroom rental with a regular old HVAC system. Our bill runs us about $138 a month if we really crank the air (which is 90% of the time, I'm a brat when it comes to comfort). Using this Geocomfort savings tool, our new 2,200 square foot home will probably run us $164 each month.

BONUS: We spoke to someone with a new construction twice the size of our new home, and their highest electric bill has been 170-180 dollars. 

But how much extra is it to even get the system installed? 
After the tax rebates it's going to cost us an extra $2,000ish for the system and install. Before taxes it's roughly double a regular HVAC system. Word on the street is that our money spent on the system can be recouped in as little as 3 years due to the energy savings.

I still don't understand.
Basically, they are digging holes in the ground and putting some tubes in that connect to the house and make it hot or cold based on what I set the thermostat on.
This animation helps too.

What it looks like.
(This room in the basement looks pretty gross in this pic, sorry, under construction.)

We turned the system on labor day weekend to help move along the mudding process by taking some of the humidity out of the house. Although we are not looking forward to another bill (building a house is nothing but bills bills bills!) we are both interested to see what our electric bill will be with this baby on.

Have you heard of geothermal?
Do you have geothermal in your home? I want to hear from you! 

***I am not a professional and information in this post is based on my own research & opinions. AKA I have no clue what the heck I am talking about. If you have serious questions I suggest you ask someone who knows their geo-shiz.



  1. We have oil heat in our house that we just bought and are changing that up to a hybrid electric with oil backup system. We seriously considered going geothermal and if we built the house we would of done it. Props to you guys to going thru with it!

  2. We are doing geothermal too!! I am so excited that you guys are doing this! Ok I feel like a dork now. Haha! Anyways, our system isn't quite hooked up yet (hopefully by the end of this week if it stops raining/dries up a bit) so I am not sure what to think of it right now. I think we're going to be glad we went with it though.

  3. We just went with the regular ol high efficiency, bad for the environment stuff. :( But I think this is so neat you are doing it!

  4. Geothermal is the bomb. Seriously. Geothermal is big (I am talking BIG) around these parts with all the fancy pants rich folk who can afford the nice houses on the lake (and therefore install geothermal systems). Having been in a few of these houses in the dead of winter (-40 anyone?) and being able to feel the consistency and cozy warm goodness of the heat is amazing. Compared to forced air systems, where the air temperature gradually drops while not undergoing a heat cycle geothermal is a dream.
    My jealousy of your house is exponentially growing. We would definitely do geothermal if it were an option in our next abode.

  5. Gosh I am so behind! I've never heard of it before, but knew it was "green" when you mentioned the name. I think this is so cool though, and can't wait to hear if your bills are a lot lower!

  6. We did geo in our house. LOVE it. I'm a fellow comfort brat. Our house is just under 4000 square feet. Our bill last month during the hottest summer ever (dramatic much?) was $200. During the spring and fall it's $100. Winter is $200-$250 because I like to be cozy.

    Don't ask me how it works though. All I know though is that it's okay to keep the air conditioner running because it warms our water and then we don't have to use electricity to heat the water. Magic.

  7. Amazing...geothermal is so comfortable - I have only been ina fancy pants house with it but it's awesome. Seems like it would be well worth it.

  8. Can I use the diagram with the underground pipes? If so Is there someone I can give credit to because I'm needing to site pictures and info

    1. Valentino if you see at the bottom of the entry I linked to the sources I used. Please credit them, not me.


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