Hot, Cool, and Totally Down-to-Earth: Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Posted on: May 9, 2019, by :

Okay, so the title of this post is pretty cheesy, but geothermal heating and cooling is both really hot right now and really cool technology, so it fit! Obviously there are a lot of things that differentiate Olivette from your typical housing development, but we often tend to focus on the whole lifestyle when we tell you about it. The beauty of nature, the way we work to preserve it, all the ways you can enjoy it as a resident, etc. And all of that is a huge part of who we are! But we’re also dedicated to sustainability, green building and green technology, and development-wide geothermal heating and cooling is one of the more esoteric things that sets Olivette apart. It’s a win for both the environment and the resident, but what is it exactly? Luckily Eric Patterson, one of Olivette’s major contributors, has volunteered to tell us all about it!

Geothermal heat pumps, also known as ground source heat pumps, are a proven technology that have been used to heat and cool homes for the past 50+ years.  At Olivette, we’ve made a commitment to this technology and require builders to include geothermal heat pumps in all homes built in our community.  It’s a clean, sustainable and efficient technology that we should all be excited about, and I’ll tell you why.

The more common traditional heat pumps accumulate heat from the outside air and transfer it indoors during the winter for home heating.  When summer arrives, these traditional heat pumps take accumulate indoor heat and transfer it to the outdoor air. Unfortunately, this technology becomes most inefficient as outside air temperatures drop in the winter, or become hotter in the summer.  These systems are least efficient when you need them to be most efficient.

Unlike traditional heat pumps, a geothermal heat pump does not transfer heat to/from the outside air.  Instead, they transfer heat to/from the earth, deep underground, where the earth temperature is nearly constant throughout the year.  This makes geothermal heat pumps extremely efficient, regardless of the outside air temperature.

Geothermal heat pumps have become increasingly popular in recent years for a number of reasons.

  • Efficiency:  Geothermal heat pumps are quite simply the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way to heat and cool your home (US. Dept of Energy, EPA).  Energy savings of up to 65% can be achieved versus traditional heat pumps, generating substantial utility savings throughout the life of your home. For home buyers focused on saving money and energy efficiency, a geothermal heat pump is the obvious choice.
  • Environmental:  The impressive efficiency of geothermal heat pumps not only saves money, but also saves fossil fuels by reducing demand on power plants.  It’s been estimated that installing a single geothermal heat pump is the environmental equivalent of planting 750 trees. Whether your focus is on air pollution, climate change or carbon footprint, a geothermal heat pump is the right choice for your home.
  • Service Life:  Traditional heat pumps (and air conditioners) are located outdoors and have fans and compressors which are subjected to the punishing effects of rain, dirt, leaves, insects, etc.  As a result, the average service life for these systems are limited to just 15 years before they require replacement. Geothermal heat pumps have no outdoor moving parts exposed to such hazards, resulting in increased reliability and an average service life of 25 years.  The underground component of a geothermal heat pump (the “ground loop”) have even longer service lives, estimated at 100+ years.
  • Quiet Operation:  Traditional heat pumps (and air conditioners) have noisy compressors and fans located outdoors to transfer heat to the outside air.  This interferes with your peaceful enjoyment of the outdoors, especially during the summer months. Geothermal systems quietly transfer heat deep underground and don’t require noisy fans and compressors to operate. For this reason, the relaxing sounds of the river, birds and breezes through the trees are especially peaceful at Olivette, undisturbed by the buzzing noises of traditional heat pumps that are found in most other communities.
  • Tax Credits:  In order to further stimulate the installation of renewable technology such as geothermal heat pumps, Congress included a provision in the Tax Law of 2017 to provide tax credits of up to 30% towards the installation of these systems.  This tax credit can save new homeowners thousands of dollars on their federal tax bill, and can be carried forward to future tax years until the full tax credit is used. Consult your tax advisor for more details.

For the above reasons and more, geothermal heat pumps are simply the proper and prudent heating and cooling selection for new home construction, and we are proud to include this environmentally friendly and efficient technology in every home built at Olivette.

Feel free to leave your questions and comments about Geothermal Heating and Cooling below! We love talking about this awesome sustainable technology.

2 thoughts on “Hot, Cool, and Totally Down-to-Earth: Geothermal Heating and Cooling

    1. Great question!

      “Heat” pumps are able to cool your home by taking “heat” from inside your home and transferring it outside. In the case of a geothermal system, the heat is exhausted underground where the temperature remains a virtually constant 57 degrees F throughout the year. By removing the heat from indoors, the indoor temperature drops, and the home is cooled. ~Posted for Eric P.

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Olivette Riverside Community & Farm