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7 Benefits Of Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHPs)


We recently moved our corporate offices to Olde Towne Gaithersburg, an up-and-coming area not too far from where I live.  With this move I reduce my daily carbon footprint and spend no frustrating time in traffic on the Interstate.  Included in the view from my new office are railroageothermald tracks.  I have been here a few days and every couple of hours a train goes by.  Not a commuter train, although they use these tracks too, but a CSX freight train.  I see the trains go by in one direction with what seems to be an endless string of coal-filled cars and then back empty in the other direction.  I have been aware that the coal industry makes heavy use of the rail industry, but I am now seeing the process firsthand. 

In just a few days, I have witnessed thousands of tons of coal go by my office window.  These trains are a constant reminder to me of how much coal is burned to power our lives with electricity.

I spend a lot of time working on renewable energy projects, especially solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal, which are great alternatives for generating electricity and heat.  I plan to invest more time on reducing electric and natural gas usage by creating efficiencies for property owners.

Heating and cooling typically account for over one third of the energy used in a residential or commercial building.  It is widely accepted by engineers (but little known by the public) that one of the most efficient ways of heating and cooling a building is through the use of geothermal ground source heat pumps (GHP). 

7 Benefits of Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHPs)

  1. Reduce Energy Consumption – The biggest benefit of GHPs is that they use 25%-50% less electricity than conventional heating and cooling systems.  This translates into a GHP using one unit of electricity to move three units of heat to or from the earth.
  2. Lower Operating Costs/Usage/Emissions – According to the EPA, geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption—and corresponding emissions—up to 44% compared to air-source heat pumps and up to 72% compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment.
  3. Improve Humidity Control – GHPs also improve humidity control by maintaining about 50% relative indoor humidity, making GHPs very effective in humid areas.
  4. Design Flexibility – Geothermal heat pump systems allow for design flexibility and can be installed in both new and retrofit applications. Because the hardware requires less space than conventional HVAC systems, the equipment rooms can be smaller in size.
  5. Increase Temperature Control – GHP systems also provide excellent "zone" space conditioning, allowing different parts of your home to be heated or cooled to different temperatures.
  6. Durable and Reliable – GHP systems have relatively few moving parts, and because those parts are sheltered inside a building, they are durable and very reliable. The underground piping where heat is exchanged often carry warranties of 25–50 years, and the heat pumps often last 20 years or more.  Since they usually have no outdoor compressors, GHPs are not susceptible to weather or vandalism.
  7. Quieter – There isn't any concern about noise outside the home/commercial property because there isn't an outside condensing unit like with traditional air conditioners. A two-speed GHP system is so quiet inside a building that users do not know it is operating.  There are also no tell-tale blasts of cold or hot air.

Why are geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) not more prevalent?  There are new and innovative ways to overcome the typical barriers to entry with GHPs.  I would like to see widespread adoption of GHPs in commercial, industrial, office and residential buildings, which could help reduce the loads of coal that pass by my window each day.