Geothermal is catching on with historic-home owners. But with older homes comes extra caution – especially with renovations!
Has your steam system suffered an unfixable freeze? Forced-air HVAC system reaching the end of its life? Is trying to heat / cool your old home cutting into retirement savings? If any of these circumstances sound familiar, your home may be a candidate for a geothermal HVAC system!
Geothermal systems make use of the free, renewable energy stored in the earth. A geothermal heat pump uses the constant temperature underground as the exchange medium for heating and cooling, instead of outside air. Just a few feet below the surface, ground temperatures are significantly warmer than the air above during winter, and much cooler in summer, usually averaging around 50° F year round. For this reason, a geothermal heat pump uses less energy to warm indoor air when it’s cold, and to cool the air when it’s hot outside—all without directly burning any fossil fuel.
While the upfront costs of geothermal are about twice that of conventional systems, the energy savings are so significant that most homeowners will recoup their costs in five to 10 years—sooner, factoring in the state and federal tax incentives now available. The whisper-quiet systems make a lot of sense for older houses with generous floor plans and minimal insulation, too.
Although geothermal heat pumps can be integrated easily with existing systems such as forced-air or radiant floor heating, you’ll need space in a utility room or basement for all necessary components. Where there is no ductwork in place, a delivery system will have to be designed and installed, preferably one that disturbs as few original walls and ceilings as possible. For a two-storey house, for example, it may make sense to install a split system, placing ductwork and an air handler for the first floor in the basement, with a similar set-up in the attic to serve the upper floor.