Answers to All of Your Geothermal HVAC Questions

Find out what a geothermal heating and cooling system is, how it works, and the benefits it could provide to your home.

No home is complete without an HVAC system to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But for some homeowners, outdated HVAC systems can be a point of major frustration. From their heavy effect on the environment to their ability to drive up those monthly energy bills, it may be time to say goodbye to your HVAC system of ages past. Luckily, as the demand for energy efficiency and green alternatives grow, so does the popularity of geothermal HVAC systems.

What Is a Geothermal HVAC System?

Geothermal HVAC systems use fans and air ducts to circulate air throughout the home like traditional HVAC systems do, but the similarities between the systems end there.

By harnessing the earth's energy, geothermal systems are able to provide heat and air conditioning without relying on fossil fuels or electricity -- becoming a popular (and green) alternative to traditional HVAC units. Homeowners looking to reduce their environmental impact while also keeping their home comfortable will definitely want to consider this option.

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How Do Geothermal HVAC Systems Work?

To naturally heat and cool your home, geothermal systems use water to carry heat from the earth to the home in colder months and push heat from the home in warmer months. This process works because the earth's ground temperature remains consistent all year round, meaning it's warmer than the outside air in the cooler months and cooler than the outside air in the warmer months.

Geothermal HVAC units use two components to heat and cool a home: a heat pump and an underground loop field. The heat pump, located inside the home, either pulls heat from the water to warm the home or puts heat from the air into the water to cool the home. The water is then sent back underground to be warmed or cooled through the underground loop field (a series of loop-shaped pipes).

Although geothermal HVAC systems are very energy-efficient, they do require a small amount of electricity to run the fans and the heat pump.

How Much Does Geothermal HVAC Installation Cost?

Geothermal HVAC systems can cost anywhere between $3,500 and $12,900 which fluctuates based on a few different factors. One large factor is the orientation of the underground loop field. Vertical loop fields typically cost significantly more because of the deep drilling required for their installation. Another factor that determines the cost is the size of the home. The size of the house influences the required capacity of the geothermal HVAC heat pump and the size of the underground loop field. A geothermal HVAC system will likely be more expensive for a larger house than a smaller house.

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What Are the Benefits of Geothermal Energy?

While geothermal HVAC systems are pricey, they come with multiple benefits to help justify the large upfront costs.

Environmentally Friendly

One of the biggest reasons homeowners choose to switch to a geothermal HVAC system is the desire to lower their carbon footprint and make their home more environmentally friendly. When it comes to HVAC, geothermal heating and cooling is the most environmentally friendly option available. Unlike traditional systems, geothermal units do not emit any greenhouse gases because they transform energy instead of creating it by burning.

Energy Efficiency

Geothermal HVAC systems are also the most efficient option on the market. For every one unit of electrical energy used, four units of energy are delivered -- making these units run at 400 percent efficiency. In comparison, the most efficient gas system currently available runs at 94 percent efficiency.

Geothermal HVAC systems significantly decrease utility bills, making them well worth their money over time. Most people see a complete return on their geothermal HVAC investment in two to 10 years, depending on their current energy efficiency situation.


Not only are geothermal units the most efficient HVAC system on the market, but they are also the longest-lasting. The heat pump component of a geothermal system usually lasts around 25 years, while the loop field can last upwards of 50 years. Because the two components of a geothermal HVAC system are located either indoors or underground, they aren't susceptible to damage caused by outdoor elements. As an added bonus, geothermal HVAC systems also require very little maintenance besides an occasional air filter change.

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Getting the Most of Your Geothermal HVAC System

While geothermal systems can be incredibly efficient, they are only as efficient as your home. If your home lacks proper insulation, it might be best to wait on investing in a geothermal system until the rest of your home is up to par. If you're unsure of whether or not your home is a good candidate for a geothermal HVAC system, an HVAC installation contractor can help inspect your home and decide if it is a good option.

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