If you think geothermal power is right for you and your home, the following checklist can save you or your contractor valuable time and money.
1. Calculate your home's heat gain and heat loss by contacting your local energy company, which can provide you with a home energy analysis.
2. Consider changing insulation or, if you're building a new home, using spray-in cellulose, which performs 30% better than fiberglass. One Ohio customer with a geoexchange system and cellulose-insulated home reported that after two years in his home the highest electric bill for air conditioning was $64 while heating costs ran from $120 to $140. For an all-electric home with an electric rate of 6.3 cents per kilowatt, this is remarkable!
3. Window quality, design and R-value will also make a significant difference in home performance. In northern climates it's nice to see every glass surface be "low-e" and high-efficiency.
4. Another major and often overlooked problem that you might consider dealing with if your electric bills are high is can lighting. Can lights in cathedral- and attic-level ceilings can destroy an energy budget. If you are going to use them, be sure to only use Insulation Contact Air Tight (ICAT) can lights. An ICAT can light costs only a few dollars more than the standard IC lights that most electricians use, but they can save you $5 to $30 per year per fixture.
5. Thermal mass was a big item in the 1970's and it's finally being used again, albeit in a slightly different way — as radiant floor heat. Geoexchange systems are a perfect tie-in with low-temperature heat in concrete slabs or by means of aluminum reflector plates under wood or tile floors.
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