Geothermal Energy Pros And Cons

In the typical U.S. household, more than half the energy usage goes toward heating and cooling the home. Not only does this take a large chunk out of the family budget, but it also contributes to environmental pollution when fossil fuels are used to provide energy. One solution that is growing in popularity with homeowners is geothermal energy. While geothermal energy isn’t for everyone, it has significant benefits that make it a great alternative energy source for many people. Understanding the geothermal energy pros and cons will help homeowners decide if this alternative energy is right for them.

 thermal spring grand prismatic spring

thermal spring grand prismatic spring

In the home, geothermal energy is generally used to help power ground-source heat pumps to heat and cool the home. A ground-source heat pump consists of an air-distribution system in the house and pipes that are buried in the ground outside the house.
The system takes advantage of the geothermal energy found underground, where the Earth’s temperature remains consistent and unaffected by changes in weather. During the summer, heat from the home is passed through the liquid in the pipes into the cooler ground. During the winter, heat from the ground is pulled into the liquid in the pipes and distributed throughout the home. Because the geothermal energy doesn’t change but the above-ground temperature does, this system provides a year-round source of efficient heating and cooling for the home.
Here are some geothermal energy pros and cons that should be considered before installing a ground-source heat pump.

Pros:

  • Using geothermal energy to help power a heat pump save anywhere from 20% to 80% off heating and cooling costs. How much is saved depends on various factors, including previous energy usage and the efficiency rating of the heat pump.
  • A ground-source heat pump can potentially pay for itself in energy savings over a period of two to 10 years. As a general rule, heat pumps installed in new construction pay for themselves more quickly because they are usually more efficient than retrofitted heat pumps. However, even a retrofit can sometimes see a return on investment within ten years.
  • Some ground-source heat pumps can also be used to heat the water in a water heater.
  • Geothermal energy is a renewable resource. The heat underground is an energy source that in practical terms can’t be used up. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are in limited supply and getting more scarce with each passing year.
  • Use of geothermal energy will reduce pollution. Just looking at the geothermal systems currently being used, energy savings equal to 5.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide have been achieved.

Cons:

  • At this time, ground-source heat pumps are expensive, especially in comparison to traditional air conditioners and furnaces. As technology using geothermal energy improves, the costs will go down, and the energy savings can repay the initial cost over time. However, the initial investment can be daunting for some homeowners.
  • Electricity is still needed to run a heat pump, although the amount used is significantly less than what is used by other heating and cooling systems.
  • A large amount of land is needed to lay out the pipes horizontally. Pipes can also be put in vertically, but this comes at a substantial extra cost.

When thinking about using geothermal energy, the pros and cons should be considered carefully. In the long run, the high initial cost may be a hurdle that some homeowners can’t overcome, but for many, the energy savings and environmental benefits will outweigh the disadvantages.

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