Geothermal systems have become the innovative choice for people looking to produce clean, efficient and sufficient heating or cooling in their homes. We’ve often heard people ponder on the cost of running a geothermal system in their homes.
The sheer size, installation complexity, power and performance often give the impression that they would probably cost a lot to run. But, do they? We’ve also heard some people ask, “why is my electric bill so high on geothermal?”.
The point is, geothermal systems are very powerful units, so it’s important to find out how much energy they consume.
Do geothermal heat pumps cost so much to run? If they do, why does running them cost so much? These are some of the many questions we’ll be answering in this post, so you best stay with us as we move along.
How Much Electricity Does a Geothermal Heat Pump Use?
Generally, an average geothermal heat pump would use between 1.5kWh and 6kWh of power. Specifically, a 3-ton SEER 30 geothermal heat pump uses up about 2.3 kWh of electricity, while a 6-ton SEER 30 unit will use up around 4.6kWh of electricity.
Let’s assume your unit takes up around 3.6kWh of electricity. In money terms, this would need to be translated using the average cost of electricity in the US, which is currently around $0.13. That will amount to;
3.6 x 0.13 = $0.47 per hour
In 24 hours, that’ll amount to $11.23, and in a month, you’d be spending about $337.
However, it’s unlikely that you’ll run the unit continuously for a month. And, even if you did, you’d still be spending less than you would if you were using an air conditioning unit.
For instance, while a 3-ton SEER 30 unit will take up 2.3kWh of electricity, a 3-ton AC unit will take up much more, usually exceeding 3.5kWh of electricity. This shows that a geothermal heat pump is relatively more efficient than most other heating and cooling appliances.
How Much Does It Cost to Heat a House with Geothermal?
Heating a house with geothermal involves investing in a unit that costs between $12,000 and $30,000. That includes the cost of buying the components and the cost of installation.
Why Does Geothermal Energy Cost So Much?
There are a number of factors responsible for the cost of geothermal energy, and we’ll see them shortly.
1. Drilling Cost and Looping
This is one of the factors that make geothermal energy quite expensive. Before digging even begins, it is important to have experts carry out a survey to determine if the land you intend to tap for geothermal energy is suitable for the purpose.
This can be determined by the geological properties and subsurface conditions of the area. Then drilling takes place.
Another cost is that of looping and the pipes. Depending on how deep and wide the wells are, you’d need pipes that are tens or hundreds of feet long, and this cost a lot.
2. Components and Installation
The components of a geothermal energy system are also quite pricey. These include the looping unit, the heat exchanger, the heat pump, and the airflow unit.
They are indoor and outdoor components and cost a lot of money. These components are heavy-duty because they are meant for whole-house or whole-building applications.
3. Heat Pump Size
The heat pump needed for geothermal systems are really large and cost a lot of money.
On average, you’d need between $2,200 to about $10,000 or more to get a unit, depending on the size and capacity.
Also, such heat pumps require a lot of electric energy to run, beginning at about 1kW to thousands of kW. However, it’s important to get a heat pump with a high COP for higher efficiency.
4. Efficiency and Performance
The efficiency of geothermal energy also contributes to the cost of geothermal energy.
The fact that the resource is renewable and non-depletable, as well as the fact that the system provides clean and safe energy are other factors to consider.
What’s more, a geothermal system pays for itself over a period of time due to savings on energy bills.
Do Geothermal Heat Pumps Run Constantly?
Yes, geothermal systems can work constantly, round the clock, for 24 hours every day and 7 days a week. The main reason for this is, geothermal energy is renewable energy and is constantly available.
The air temperature is usually constant; warmer than the ambient temperature in winter and cooler than the outdoor air in summer. The most efficient way to use the geothermal heat pump is to let it run continuously, all day. Just be sure you do not toy with the thermostat continuously.
The best way to get the best out of the geothermal heat pump is to set the thermostat at a stable level and let it run continuously. So, as long as the thermostat is triggered, the unit will keep running.
Changing the thermostat settings will lead to the use of aux heat which can spike your energy bills significantly.
However, you’ll also need to give the unit some rest time. For some people, this is after the summer or winter season. For others, this can be about 12 to 24 hours every week.
How Long Does It Take for Geothermal to Pay For Itself?
We’d say between 3 and 20 years, depending on the size and type you buy. Regular whole-house units will only require 2 to 10 years to recover the initial investment, but larger industrial units will need between 4 and 20 years on average.
This is because the initial cost of some of these larger units can rise as high as $50,000 or more. As the years run by, you’ll begin to reap the benefits of clean energy, won’t need to pay for fuel, and will enjoy optimum efficiency on electricity supplied to the heat pump, up to 3-5 times more.
This is why geothermal energy is considered a worthwhile, long-term investment. While the initial cost may discourage you, the long-term cost benefit is really impressive and should encourage you.
So, the next time you ask the question, “why is my electric bill so high on geothermal?”, you should also follow up with, “compared to what?”.
Truth is, if you consider the coefficient of performance of typical geothermal units and the fact that they provide both cooling and heating benefits, depending on the season, you’ll see that every penny spent on geothermal energy is worth it.
Besides, geothermal energy is the energy for today and for the future, so it’s best to start investing in one right now.