A New Use For Geothermal

By installing a pool heater, you can consider extending your swimming season. A great idea for both community and residential pools is pool heaters. They allow swimmers to take a nice, relaxing dip in the pool even on the coldest of days.

There are four options when selecting a pool heater:

* Propane/Gas pool heaters
* Air supply heat pumps
* Solar Powered heat pumps
* Geothermal Powered pool heat pumps

When selecting a pool heater you want to consider price of installation, cost of use, ability to heat, and how often you plan to use it.

Geothermal Experts
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Solar Swimming Pool Heaters
Solar swimming pool heaters are priced competitively. They use a renewable source of energy, so you can feel good about your purchase. They are larger than any of the other units and require space for the solar panels. Additionally, they are unable to heat very cold water and they are dependent on the amount of sunlight available on a given day.

There are four main elements of a solar pool heater:
* Solar powered collector device – the apparatus during which pool water is circulated to be heated by the sun
* Filter – removes debris before water is pumped into the collector
* Pump – passes water into the collector and filter and back to the pool
* Flow control valve – device that diverts pool water through the solar collector.

Pool water is pumped through the filter and then to the solar collector(s), usually located on the roof of a home. The water is heated by solar rays and then returned to the pool.

Solar heaters usually last, with proper maintenance, for 10 – 20 years which is longer than gas heaters and heat pumps.

The initial cost of a solar powered pool heater is $3,000 – $5,000 after installation.

Air Source Heat Pumps
A heat pump uses electricity to extract the heat from the air, upgrade it with a compressor, and then transfer the heat to the water. These units are among the most common of pool heaters.

One of the benefits of the the heat pump is it is more efficient than the other common pool heater run by gas. So, your electricity bill will not go up as dramatically as it would with a gas heater.

However, these units cannot heat water if it’s below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. For some people this is not a problem. But, if you want to freedom to sit in the pool at any point during the year – this may not be the best fit for you.

Heat pumps also cost more than gas heaters, which are able to heat even the coldest of water. However, gas heaters use bundles of energy, so you can expect to earn that money back through energy savings.

The average lifespan of a pool heat pump is 10 – 15 years. That’s less than geothermal and solar, but longer than gas heaters.

Gas Heaters
Gas pool heaters are the most popular systems for heating pools. However, gas heaters have the highest operating cost and are the least efficient / cost effective way to heat a pool. Many people use them because, unlike air source heat pumps and solar heat pumps, they have rapid heat up, maintain constant temperature regardless of outside temperature, and can heat a spa or hot tub. Until recently, only gas heaters were able to do this, but geothermal powered heat pumps are able to as well.

Gas pool heaters use either natural gas or propane. As the pump circulates the pool’s water, the water drawn from the pool passes through a filter and then to the heater. The gas burns in the heater’s combustion chamber and generates heat which it transfers to the water which is then returned to the pool. Operation requires a storage tank for propane gas, or hookup to natural gas.

These units are the least expensive to buy and install. However, their operating costs can be several thousand dollars a year, depending on the size of the pool. Also, even with professional installation and routine maintenance, gas pool heaters typically only last five or so years. So, the upfront cost may be less, but the long term costs make it the most expensive.

The Best of Everything
The geothermal powered pool heat pumps works by collecting heat from the stable ground. Although the air temperature in the winter is very volatile, underground it remains a regular 70° F. geothermal powered heat pumps uses that warm temperature through a series of underground loops that collect the heat and then a heat pump concentrates that heat and applies it where needed. They are an excellent option as a pool heater because they can be used year round, are good for the environment, are extremely efficient, and are much less expensive to operate. So you can enjoy your mid-winter swim in a nice, warm pool and knowing you won’t have an inflated energy bill!

The reality tells for themselves. Unfortunately, conventional heat pump heaters and solar heaters are unable to heat the water to a high temperature if the air temperature is below 45 – 50° F. The only products able to heat the water at those low temperatures would be a geothermal powered heat pump and the gas heater. However, geothermal powered heat pumps are 90% more efficient than gas heaters. That means you are paying a tremendous amount of money to heat your pool with the gas heater, but with geothermal you can rest easy because the majority of your energy is fueled by a renewable, natural source of energy. geothermal powered pool heat pumps presents the ease of gas heaters; they can heat water at any temperature, heat the water quickly, and maintain any desired temperature. They can also save hundreds of dollars in energy costs each year, depending on the frequency of use and size of the pool.

Another benefit is their small size and versatility. Gas or propane heaters require a hook-up or installation of a tank. This can be costly to do and offers dangers for small children. Solar panels can also be bulky and they require a lot of space. With a geothermal powered pool heat pump most of the equipment is located safely underground. This removes eye sores, gives you space for other things, and is much safer.

When researching the initial amount for a pool heater you will see that geothermal powered pool heat pumps are 30-40% more costly. Solar pool heaters average $2800 to install and heat pump pool heaters are approximately $4200 after installation. However, for heat pumps you also have the additional cost of energy to operate the pump. It can cost a homeowner nearly $1,000 if they run they heat pump throughout the winter. But, that number drops dramatically for geothermal powered heat pumps. You can expect savings of 50 – 90% in operation costs. So, in time, the initial investment is counterbalanced by the tremendous energy savings. Also, geothermal powered pool heat pumps last the longest of any other type of systems. Most carry warranties of 25 – 50 years! This offers huge savings in the long run.

What is a geothermal powered heat pump?
A geothermal powered heat pump is a central cooling and/or heating system that pumps heat from the ground. It uses the earth as a heat source (in the winter) or a heat sink (in the summer). This design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of cooling and heating systems. geothermal powered heat pumps are also known by a variety of other names, earth-coupled, including geoexchange, earth energy or water-source heat pumps.

Are incentives available from the state or federal government?
YES. Home and commercial building owners who install geothermal powered cooling and heating systems systems are now eligible for federal tax incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1: Div. B, Sec. 1122, p. 46), which removed the maximum credit amount for all eligible technologies (except fuel cells) placed in service after 2008. The legislation offers a one-time tax credit of 30 percent of the total investment for residential ground-loop or groundwater geothermal powered heat pump installations, with no limit on the maximum credit.

To qualify for the tax credit, residential systems must meet Energy Star requirements. The contractor who sold and installed the product should list the purchase as a “geothermal powered heat pump” on the invoice and note that the unit “Exceeds requirements of the Energy Star program currently in effect.” The home served by the system does not have to be the taxpayer’s principal residence. The act also provides incentives for residential wind and solar systems, biomass, and efficient appliances and vehicles. Some states offer tax incentives, and some utilities offer rebates or special electric rates. You should check with a contractor to find out what’s available in your area.

Can geothermal cool as well?
It can do more than cool; it can make hot water, too. A simple switch at the thermostat reverses the process, allowing the geothermal system to provide cooling twice as efficiently as any other air conditioning system. In the process, the system provides virtually free hot water and superior home dehumidification plus, some units can make all of your hot water.

Are we going to be comfortable?
Probably more comfortable than ever. A geothermal system runs warm air all through your home via a standard duct network. Because the system moves a larger volume of air, heat is more even throughout the home and the initial cold air blast common with fossil fuel furnaces is eliminated. It’s also a great comfort to know that you’ve reduced your energy consumption while using a renewable source – the earth. And geothermal means a cleaner house because there is no stain from ignition, and improved air flow means improved filtration.

Can a geothermal system be added to my furnace?
Split systems can easily be added to existing furnaces for those wishing to have a dual- fuel system. Dual-fuel systems use the geothermal unit as the main heating source and a fossil fuel furnace as a supplement in extremely cold weather if additional heat is needed. Your electric utility may provide special rates for dual-fuel installations.

What does open-loop and closed-loop mean?
The heart of the geothermal systems is the ground loop. An open-loop geothermal system uses well water as a heat source. As the water passes through it, the system extracts heat, reducing the water temperature about 5 degrees F. The water is then returned to the earth, usually by running it on the ground and letting it seep into the aquifer. A closed-loop system extracts heat from the earth by a sequence of liquid-filled pipes covered in the ground. The plastic pipes are filled with water and antifreeze. The pipe used in closed loop systems is buried beneath the frost line. The pipe can also be run vertically in bored holes. A typical home will have about 2,000 running feet of pipe in the earth loop. The pipe can have a guaranteed lifetime of 50 years or more.

Do I need separate loops for cooling and heating systems?
No. The same loop works for both. All that happens when changing from heating to cooling is that the flow of heat is reversed.
How do geothermal owners feel about them?

State and national surveys show that over 90 percent of owners are very satisfied with their geothermal units. More than 95 percent said they would choose the system again and recommended it to others.

Is a geothermal powered heat pump difficult to install?
Most units are easy to install, especially when they are replacing another forced air system. They can be installed in areas unsuitable for fossil fuel furnaces because there is no ignition, thus exhaust gases are no longer needed. Ductwork must be installed in homes that don’t have an existing air distribution system. The difficulty of installing ductwork will vary and should be assessed by a contractor.

How is heat made from cold well water or the frozen earth?
The earth is a wonderful source of heat. Just ask the burrowing animals that depend on it for warmth in the winter. In fact, the earth stores 47 percent of the solar energy that reaches us, making it a natural source of heat for our homes, if we can get it out. And we can. geothermal powered cooling and heating systems systems, also called earth loop, or ground-coupled heat pumps, move the heat from the ground into your home using the same technology your refrigerator uses to remove heat from food.