High-Efficiency Heat Pumps vs. Geothermal Systems – Which Are Better?

October 9, 2013
Ross and Witmer

Installing a high-efficiency heat pump or geothermal system will cut your heating and cooling bills substantially, and each has specific advantages. Because both are a big investment, it helps to know the pros and cons of each.

Geothermal heat pumps offer these benefits:

  • Quiet operation: Geothermal heat pumps do not use an outdoor condenser, which frees up space in your yard and eliminates the noise that condensers make when they run.
  • Long lifetime: The underground loop field of a geothermal system can last 50 years or more, and the indoor air handler up to 25 years, as long as you’re conscientious about maintenance.
  • Highest energy efficiency: Air-source heat pumps have an efficiency that ranges from 150 to 300 percent, while a geothermal heat pump’s efficiency can reach 600 percent in the heating mode.
  • Tax credits: The federal government is making tax credits available for geothermal heat pumps through December 2016. The credit allows homeowners to deduct 30 percent of the cost of a qualifying system, and there’s no cap on the tax credit. Tax credits for high-efficiency air-source heat pumps end this December.

The cons of geothermal systems include:

  • High installation cost. Even with the tax credit, a geothermal heat pump costs more than a high-efficiency heat pump, largely because of installation costs.
  • Yard suitability: Not all homes have suitable yards for a geothermal system, even with a vertical installation where the loop field goes deep.
  • Access: Heavy equipment to dig the loop field could be inaccessible in some conditions.

The pros of a high-efficiency heat pump include:

  • Low energy bills: Although your energy bills will be slightly higher than with a geothermal heat pump, air-source heat pumps are still highly efficient systems that provide both heating and cooling.
  • Easy installation: Once the outdoor condenser and air handler have been placed, it’s easy to get the system running.

The cons of such a system are the outdoor noise the condenser makes (although some homeowners hardly notice it) and slightly higher ongoing heating and cooling cost than with a geothermal installation.

If you’re in the market for a high-efficiency heat pump or geothermal system, contact Ross & Witmer. We’ve provided outstanding HVAC services to homeowners in the Charlotte, Gaston, Mecklenburg and Union areas since 1945.

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