Install a geothermal heating system for your new-construction home or business, or retrofit an existing build with this energy-efficient heating and cooling alternative. You’ll save on your heating and cooling bills, you’ll have a smaller carbon footprint, your heating and cooling system will have nearly double the lifespan (~25 years) of a traditional HVAC system, and you won’t have a noisy outdoor unit running or an unsightly condenser sitting on the side of your house.
A geothermal system has three parts, explains Tim Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services in Newnan, Georgia: the geothermal loops (a series of pipes installed in the ground), a heat pump, and a heat distribution center. Each loop is designed to provide one ton of energy for the system. According to Energy.gov, a geothermal heat pump uses the constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium (as opposed to outside air); using a ground heat exchanger can heat and cool your home, and even supply it with hot water. Energy.gov explains that there are four basic types of loops: closed loop horizontal, closed loop vertical, closed loop pond or lake systems, and an open loop option.
Have a geothermal system installed when you’re constructing a new home or commercial building. On average, installation of a geothermal system on a new construction home costs approximately $9,000-$10,000 per ton, including ductwork, says Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services. The tonnage is the size of the system you need to heat or cool your house, and the length of loop you need is determined by the tonnage. Factors that can impact the tonnage you need are the size of your home, the available shade and environment surrounding your house, and the number of windows you have.
A general rule of thumb is 650-750 square feet per ton, says Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services, but each home is unique. For example, a recent customer of Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services with a solid glass home (other than the floor and roof) had a ratio of 400 square feet per ton due to the lower insulating powers of glass. Professionals use special software to carefully calculate the necessary tonnage and loop size.
Total costs for system installation can range from $18,000 up to $50,000 or more, says Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services. His company has installed residential systems that cost as much as $280,000; as he explains, the cost really depends on your house and your needs. The investment for geothermal energy is greater upfront, but the internal system can last approximately 25 years while the ground loops may have a lifespan of up to 50 years, making it more durable and cost-effective in the long run than a traditional HVAC system.
You can remove an old HVAC system and have it replaced with a new geothermal system in your current house. The installation specialists often can use your existing ductwork, possibly with some updates or modifications, which can provide an opportunity for savings. Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services says that in general, retrofitting is approximately $1,500 less per ton than installation on a new construction. Generally installation takes one to two weeks from absolute start to absolute finish, says Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services. But only one day of that requires the household to go without heating or air conditioning; the rest of the time is prep work, like drilling the loops and mounting the pumps, to ensure proper installation and a smooth transition.
Where you live will impact costs due not only to factors such as regional labor rates and cost of materials, but also to the characteristics of the land you live on and the positioning of your home. City residences often have smaller lots, and loops must be drilled in vertically to accommodate the smaller space. More rural residences with wide-open acreage may enable the installation of horizontal rather than vertical loops, which could save approximately $1,000 per ton for installation, says Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services, because you are digging trenches for the loops rather than drilling holes.
If you have a lake or pond on your property, you may be able to put in a lake loop and save approximately $1,500 per ton, explains Uzar. A lake loop is situated on top of the soil at the bottom of the lake or pond; the trenching is limited to supply and return piping from the pond to your house, which makes installation more cost-effective, says Uzar with Ecomech LLC Heating and Air Conditioning Services. If, over time, silt buries your pond loops, that could require a service call for approximately $2,500 to lift them back up so the system runs at maximum efficiency.
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