Using the earth’s own forces to heat and cool your home has been a trend that has attracted investments by high-tech companies.
These advances may have you asking, “What are the pros and cons of geothermal energy?” and with good reason. Let’s explore the ins and outs and potential drawbacks of geothermal energy.
What's In This Article
When you search for the top “geothermal energy pros and cons” you have to mention the many plusses for heating and cooling. Among them are these benefits.
Combustion isn’t required for geothermal heating or cooling, so geothermal energy has a small carbon footprint (1).
To better understand this, you can watch this great video from CBC News, where a small company in Saskatchewan, Canada is building Canada’s first geothermal power plant:
2. No pollution
Geothermal energy is pollution-free and produces no exhaust or waste (1).
Geothermal heat is more efficient than alternative heating sources (2).
Geothermal energy is as renewable as the planet itself since it uses the earth’s warmth for heating (1).
The US opened its first geothermal district heating system in 1892 in Boise, Idaho. This system still provides heat to about 450 homes. (1)
5. No Cost Fluctuations
Geothermal energy’s costs aren’t dependent on the price of oil or natural gas, making budgeting easier.
6. Savings on Cost of Heating and Cooling
Homeowners can save from 30 to 70 percent on heating and from 20 to 50 percent on cooling with geothermal systems (3).
7. Mostly Underground
Since most of a geothermal heating and cooling system is underground, it won’t mar the aesthetics of your home’s exterior.
8. Suitable for Buildings Large or Small
Geothermal systems are scalable, so they can work for homes and businesses of all sizes.
9. Eligible for Tax Credits
Homeowners who install a geothermal system are eligible for tax credits (4).
Geothermal heating and cooling systems are practically silent.
When you research geothermal energy pros and cons, these are the main drawbacks. Here are a few things to consider before opting for a geothermal system.
1. Higher Up-Front Costs
The costs of installing a geothermal system are dropping, but experts estimate the cost at $18,000 to $20,000 (5).
2. Installation Involves Excavation
Installing a geothermal system is easier when making it part of the construction of a new home.
Any underground work on your property can add costs to your project.
Adding geothermal energy to existing homes requires extensive excavation.
3. Damage is Expensive to Repair
Tree roots can damage geothermal heat loops, and underground repairs may be expensive and challenging.
4. Electricity May Be Required
Geothermal systems can still require electricity to operate its heat pumps, so your home won’t be completely off the grid. However, there are ways to harness electricity from geothermal energy, too.
The National Geographic states:
Dry steam is the oldest type of power plant to generate electricity using geothermal energy.
That said, perhaps the futures of electricity and geothermal energy will remain tied.
5. Large Amounts of Water Needed
Geothermal energy requires large amounts of water, making it unsuitable for areas where water is scarce.
6. Few Geothermal Installers Available
Though the number of geothermal professionals is growing, there are not enough of them to allow for competition (6).
7. Damaging to Earth’s Surface
Larger geothermal units can harm the earth’s surface and potentially cause seismic activity, depending on the amount of excavation involved (1).
How Does Geothermal Heating Work?
Geothermal heating works by transferring heat from below the earth’s surface into homes through a series of pipes called a heat loop. Fluid in the heat loop warms underground and is pumped through the home, where the geothermal unit uses it to heat and circulate the air through a standard duct system (1).
How Much Will I Save on Energy Costs with a Geothermal System?
The amount that you will save on energy costs with a geothermal system can range depending on where your home is located. Both your region and your actual land that your home is built on will factor into the costs.
In regards to energy-saving with geothermal energy, The U.S. Department of Energy stated:
“(Geothermal heat pumps) are up to 65 percent more efficient than traditional HVAC units and pay themselves back over time in energy savings — typically within 10 years,” (6)
So while their upfront costs are significant, they can definitely be worth it over time.
Who are Typical Geothermal Customers?
Typical geothermal customers usually consist of homeowners over 40, due it its higher barrier to entry.
Michael Sachse, the CEO of Dandelion (a geothermal energy company) said this on the topic: “We think of our typical customer as someone who is interested in making a sound economic choice. They’re in their 40s or 50s, with a college degree and good credit, living in a home that is 2,000 to 2,500 square feet.” (5)
If this sounds like you, a geothermal energy system may be worth heavily considering.
- Geothermal Energy. Retrieved From: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/geothermal-energy/
- Heat Pump Systems. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-and-cool/heat-pump-systemsGeothermal
- Energy for the Home. Retrieved From: https://www.heraldtribune.com/article/LK/20090613/News/605214543/SH
- Federal Tax Credits: Geothermal Heat Pumps. Retrieved from: https://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits/geothermal_heat_pumps
- Geothermal Home Heating Gets a $30 Million Boost from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Retrieved From: https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/17/geothermal-home-heating-gets-a-30-million-boost-from-bill-gates-breakthrough-energy-ventures/
- 5 Things You Should Know about Geothermal Heat Pumps. Retrieved From: https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/5-things-you-should-know-about-geothermal-heat-pumps