Geothermal Heat Pumps: How We Installed Our Green Alternative to Fuel Oil Heating, Part 3


Geothermal Water Furnace 

Geothermal Water Furnace. Photo by Allison Ehrman

This is part three of a three article series on geothermal heat pumps. Part one can be found here and part two can be found here.

Living with a geothermal system has been great so far. We only ended up using the cooling function for two days before autumn arrived in our part of the country, so I may revisit this topic again in an article next summer. But other than dealing with a torn-up yard as winter settles in, we’ve been very happy with the end results.

Our geothermal company sent a representative to our home several days after installation to teach us how to use the system. As tech-savvy as my husband and I are, I didn’t really think this was necessary, but it turns out there were a few things we still needed to learn in order to maximize the furnace’s efficiency. Anyone who buys a home with an existing geothermal heat pump or installs a new one should find an expert to demonstrate how that specific setup is meant to be used. 

At our old home, we allowed the indoor temperature during the winter to get down to 55 degrees at night and kept it at 68 during the day. But geothermal heat pumps generally come with an auxiliary “emergency” heat generator to supplement the main furnace’s heat on extremely cold days or to kick on if the system fails for some reason. Large temperature fluctuations also cause the emergency heat to run because the system is trying to play catch up, and emergency heat consumes much more energy and is therefore much more expensive than regular geothermal heat. Our thermostat automatically triggers the emergency heat if a temperature change of more than 2-4 degrees is suddenly required (we’ve since set the default to 4 degrees). So we now keep our thermostat at 70 during the day and 68 at night. We were keeping it at 72 during the day and 70 at night, but it was just too warm. The highest daily bill we’ve seen so far has been $3, but it’s only been getting down to just below freezing outside. We may adjust it to be cooler inside as winter really settles in. 

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