Going green to save greenbacks
FARGO More people are turning to geothermal heating and cooling because it's better for the environment and saves them money. Ryan Ayers of Harwood, N.D., designed his home to be sustainable, so when it came to heating and cooling options, he sai...
More people are turning to geothermal heating and cooling because it's better for the environment and saves them money.
Ryan Ayers of Harwood, N.D., designed his home to be sustainable, so when it came to heating and cooling options, he said going with geothermal was a no-brainer. He said it was the most sensible and most economical choice.
Ayers said his energy consumption is probably half to one-third of that of people he knows with similar-sized homes.
"We're not out to save the world or anything like that, but it makes sense," Ayers said. "For every kilowatt of energy you put into pumping it and moving the fluid around, you're getting four kilowatts of energy from the ground."
Geothermal works by circulating water through a loop buried horizontally or vertically.
According to the website for Earthloop Geothermal Systems of Fosston, Minn., when used as a heater, the water circulating through the loop is colder than the surrounding ground and is heated by absorbing energy from the earth.
For cooling, the water is warmer than the surrounding ground and releases energy in the form of heat into the earth.
Installation costs range from $18,000 to $45,000 for an average-size home.
Dealers say consumers can typically recover the costs of installing the system in three to eight years, especially with the tax credits, rebates and incentives now available.
"Right now is the perfect time to be updating any systems, especially these old systems," said Brad Johnson, co-owner of Precision Plumbing, Electric, Heating and Cooling in West Fargo.
Don Dyrdahl of Earthloop Geothermal Systems said geothermal is becoming extremely popular, especially in newly built homes.
"I really love the concept of it," Dyrdahl said. "You're getting three or four times as much heat for that amount of electricity."
Matt Thune, president of Home Geothermal Systems in Fargo, said interest picked up after gas and oil prices skyrocketed.
"It's still in the catching-on mode, but the interest is double or triple what it was two years ago," he said. "People now know it is a valid and proven heating and cooling source for our climate."
In addition to being efficient, dealers say geothermal is also effective.
"You can heat literally any structure with geothermal," Dyrdahl said. "I could heat your house to 90 degrees without any assistance, and it's an extremely high-performance air conditioner."
On days colder than 25 below zero, an electric plenum heater kicks in to make up the difference, saving homeowners from installing extra capacity that will hardly be used, Dyrdahl said.
Geothermal is not only an option for newly constructed homes but homeowners are also retrofitting existing houses.
Matt Torgerson, who works as Microsoft Fargo's facilities manager, was aware of the benefits of geothermal on a commercial level, and he had done a lot of homework before deciding to retrofit his 40-year-old home south of Moorhead, he said.
"It's purely about long-term cost. It's about being green, or being environmentally sensitive, and it's about being pretty clean. You're not burning any fuel in your house," Torgerson said.
He had an older gas furnace that was not very efficient. With geothermal, his utility bills were about 60 percent of what he paid before, he said.
"You have to be able to swallow the first cost because it's pretty substantial and look at it over a payback cycle," Torgerson said.
Interest in retrofitting existing homes has picked up with the housing slowdown, said Thune, of Home Geothermal Systems.
But he cautioned that geothermal would not work as well in older homes with poor windows and insulation because the temperature output is a little less than gas or oil, so it would take a larger system, which would cost more, to heat an older home.
State and federal tax credits and utility company and manufacturer rebates and incentives are also fueling demand, dealers said.
"It's catching on more and more," said Johnson, of Precision Plumbing, Electric, Heating and Cooling. "We see this quite a bit where people are asking for geothermal systems."
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and The Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers