Geothermal Heat Pump: How It Works, How Long It Lasts, and How Much It Costs


You may have heard incredible things about geothermal, such as how it can cut home heating and cooling costs by 30 to 70 percent. It’s true!

Geothermal is one of the cleanest, most energy-efficient, and quietest ways to heat and cool your home.

If you’re curious about what exactly a geothermal heat pump is, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll go over what makes up a geothermal heat pump system, how it works, how long it lasts, and how much it costs to install or replace.

Geothermal heat pump: how it works

The entire geothermal heat pump system is made up of three basic parts. These are:

  • An air handling system, which consists of a fan and ductwork to distribute heated or cooled air inside your home
  • A ground heat exchanger, also known as a ground loop, that either absorbs heat from the earth to be transferred into the house or releases the heat collected inside the home into the earth for cooling
  • A refrigerant loop connecting the air handling system and the ground heat exchanger. This is reversible so that it can be used for either heating or cooling the home.

The air handling system is distributed throughout your home and the ground heat exchanger is under the earth in your backyard. The refrigerant loop connecting these two things is the geothermal heat pump itself. It’s located in your home, generally where your furnace used to be.

A heat-absorbing liquid moves through the ground heat exchanger (ground loops) down below the green turf in your backyard. The liquid soaks up the 50-degree underground temperature and heads back to the heat pump.

Here, the heat energy is concentrated and transferred from the water to the air and sent to the duct system for distribution. How warm it gets depends on where you set your thermostat. It can also be used to heat the water used for showers and cleaning dishes in your home.

When it’s hot outside and you want to use your geothermal heat pump to cool your home, the process reverses. Hot air is collected from your home via ductwork and sent to the pump, back into the ground loop system and released into the earth.

How can geothermal pumps heat effectively in cold climates?

The key to year-round heat produced with geothermal heat pumps in every climate is the consistent temperature of the soil below the surface of the earth. Dirt and rock work as a stable insulator just feet below the topsoil. This keeps underground temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

This is true whether the ambient air outside is -15 degrees, 60 degrees, or 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also why ground-source heat pumps are the most efficient.

Types of heat pump systems

The 2 standard kinds of heat pump systems are:

  • Ground-source geothermal heat pumps
  • Air-source heat pumps

The process of an air-source heat pump is similar, except that rather than exchanging thermal energy under the soil, it’s done with the surrounding air. The major difference is that the air temperature can fluctuate significantly.

When it’s hot outside and you need cooling or it’s freezing out and you need to crank up the heat, an air-source heat pump has to work a lot harder to reach the desired temperature inside your home. Because of this, ground-source heat pumps are more efficient.

How long does a geothermal heat pump last?

Here’s another area where geothermal heat pumps really shine. The heat pump itself can last more than 20 years, and the ground loop system in your backyard up to 50 years or more.

How much does a geothermal heat pump cost?

The heat pump itself will need to be replaced before anything else. There’s more great news here, as it’s also the least expensive piece of the geothermal system. A typical geothermal heat pump costs $1,500-$2,500 per ton.

The entire geothermal system itself can cost upwards of $50,000. Add in the 30 percent federal geothermal tax credit and the New York State tax rebate between $1,200 and $1,500 per ton, and you’ve taken a serious chunk off of your geothermal price tag!

Lastly, Dandelion customers in Westchester exclusively are eligible for a $5,000 rebate from Con Edison.

At Dandelion, we’ve found ways to engineer a smarter geothermal system, so we charge between $18,000 and $25,000 for a single system (barring any additional complexity).

How much you can save with geothermal

Because of its efficiency, you can save an estimated $1,617 in energy costs during the first year, and 4 percent more every year after that, as energy costs continue to rise. Also add $500 in maintenance savings every year.

Ultimately, you could save between $30,000 and $70,000 over 20 years by replacing an old conventional heating and cooling system or installing geothermal in a new home.

How to install a geothermal heat pump

To make sure you get all the savings and efficiency benefits of geothermal, it’s critical to use a professional. For guidelines on how to choose a geothermal installer that you can trust, look for these factors:

  • The site designer can show you exact plans and specifications.
  • The installer is certified by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA).
  • The installation is backed by warranties and guarantees.

At Dandelion, we’re proud to offer all of the above, plus a few extra perks. We’re:

  • Qualified: Over 100 combined years of geothermal experience
  • Experienced: #1 New York residential geothermal installer by volume in 2018
  • Innovative: Incubated at Google’s X Lab
  • Trusted: HeatSmart-preferred geothermal contractor for Westchester, Ulster, and Sullivan counties
  • We own the process: We sell, install, and service our own product

Learn more about us today!

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