The federal government gives an energy rebate of 30% for geothermal heat pumps. As far as I know the only other classification that gets this kind of residential subsidy (and is ready for prime time) is solar. Free money for energy upgrades is a constantly changing area and each Go Green energy professional carries a book with the current programs available in our region. The 30% rebate is a whopper and has been in place for quite a while, but you never know when this government give-away will go away.
So why would the government be so generous for a piece of heating and cooling equipment? What makes this system so special? First of all, what many people do not realize is that a geothermal heat pump is a heat pump first and foremost. This is proven technology that has been around for decades. There were many successful heat pumps in place before the cell phone, and there is a lot of solid experience in this technology. With fuel prices being relatively low in this country, the interest has been low, but these systems have proven to be efficient, effective and reliable.
What makes a geothermal heat pump different is that it extracts the heat it pumps from the earth and avoids the temperature extremes of extracting heat directly from the outside air. Because the temperature of the earth is much more stable, great efficiencies can be achieved. Additionally, there is no need to go through a defrost cycle or use auxiliary heat when the weather gets really cold.
A geothermal heat pump does both heating and cooling likes its air-to-air cousin and is sized in exactly the same way. The distribution system in the home is essentially identical, and the only difference you actually see is there is no outdoor unit on the outside of the home. The indoor section houses all of the mechanical components and looks like a conventional furnace; although, there is no chimney or venting required.
What you don’t see is the invisible loops that go into the earth. These are done in a multitude of different ways, but in this region, it is most commonly done with dry wells that are very similar to water wells, except heat exchange fluid flows through the system rather than drinking water. In ponds, in serpentine loops, from a stream, from a lake, direct burial and open and closed systems all make for possible scenarios that are best evaluated by a geothermal specialist.
It’s a little more complicated and a somewhat bigger investment than a conventional heat pump or fossil fuel system. However, the savings are amazing and the payback can make it a viable option for many homeowners. The tax credit can be the icing on the cake or just enough added incentive to make the case. Heat pumps are here to stay and the sooner we all get energy smart, the sooner we start saving money and the environment.