Getting a home, school, office or other enclosed structures heated and cooled is an energy intensive plan for those located in mid-Atlantic states.
However, another lesser known heat pump type – a geothermal heat pump – makes use of lesser energy compared to traditional heating and cooling systems, especially if it’s extremely cold. If this is appealing, one needs to act fast as federal tax incentives for geothermal heat pump installations will expire by December 31st.
The choices for heating and cooling systems
The Energy Star program awarded stars to efficient, whole-house systems in the specific categories of furnaces (mostly gas fired), boilers (fueled through gas and oil, rarely from electricity), electric air conditioning systems and heat pumps, providing heating and cooling in a single system.
Heat pumps are either air-source or ground-source/geothermal. Both make use of lesser amounts of energy to move the heat from the inside to outside for cooling, and the other way around for warming.
Air-source heat pumps tend to lose their efficiency when weather becomes colder, since more energy is required to extract heat from air to heat the home.
Geothermal heat pumps get warmth through liquid filled pipes which are installed more than 10 feet underground. This means a stable temperature all year.
These are also extremely effective in bigger structures. However, capital and installation costs are greater. The payback also takes 7 – 15 years.
For new construction, these ground-source heat pumps cost twice as much compared to traditional systems. To ease the costs, federal tax code gives incentives for installation of these systems. Homeowners get 30% income tax credit, while it is 10% investment tax credit for businesses.
Even though Congress already voted in 2015 to extend the tax breaks for renewable energy until 2020s, some green technologies, such as geothermal heat pumps, fuel cells and smaller wind power systems were left out.
The industry tried an extension, but Senate did not oblige.
The energy-efficient geothermal heat pumps
Catherine Thomasson, the Physicians for Social Responsibility’s executive director, said that the most efficient systems are geothermal heat pumps since they can be placed anywhere.
However, these are known lesser. Geothermal can benefit when the Clean Power Plan of the Environmental Protection Agency requires states to have these heat pumps in the compliance plans, according to Nathaniel Greene, the Natural Defense Council’s director of renewable energy.
Even the Obama administration included geothermal heat pumps for a carbon reduction plan. A 2015 executive order from the White House requires 25% reduction in energy consumption from federal buildings in 2025, and geothermal heat pumps are included in the said technologies.
While tax incentives for geothermal heat pumps will already expire this year, a homeowner can talk with experts, such as T.H.S in the UK, for advice regarding other heating and cooling systems which are safe, cost-effective and energy-efficient for homes or businesses.