Geothermal Heat Pumps
Federal Tax Credits, State Grants & Local Incentives
As more budget-savvy Americans turn to renewable energy to power their homes and cut expenses, business is booming for small companies such as Maryland Geothermal Heat Pump Contractor Earth River Geothermal, Inc.
Mark Schultz, owner of the Annapolis, Maryland based geothermal heat pump installation company, has worked on 30 geothermal projects in the past two years.
Schultz says "the word is getting out" about geothermal systems, which use the stable geothermal temperature just beneath the Earth's surface to heat and cool homes.A 30 percent geothermal heat pump federal tax credit with no upper limit– extended by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – has slashed the average price of installing residential systems from $24,000 to $16,500. Grants from the Maryland Energy Administration and County property tax credits typically lower the price an additional $4,500, making geothermal an attractive energy option. "Financial incentives really help," Schultz says.
Unlike traditional HVAC systems that heat or cool air coming from outside, geothermal systems regulate a home's temperature using the Earth. Temperatures underneath your home remain 57° Fahrenheit year round. The geothermal heating and cooling systems consist of underground pipes filled with antifreeze.
During the heating mode in the winter, the fluid circulates through underground piping where heat energy is transferred from the ground (the heat source) to the fluid and then to the heat exchanger component of the geothermal heat pump located inside the home.
To provide air conditioning, the process reverses. Heat is removed from the home and transferred to the loop fluid. As the warm fluid travels through the pipe down into the earth, it is cooled. In the cooling mode, the earth serves as a "heat sink," or a place to deposit the heat removed from the home.
Because of this process, geothermal systems are the most energy efficient heating and cooling systems and geothermal heat pumps can save homeowners 30 to 70 percent on heating and cooling costs. The systems provide efficient hot water and are quiet since outdoor fans aren't required to run them. Other benefits include low maintenance costs, increased home resale value and safety.
"Unlike natural gas or coal, there's no fire hazard," says Schultz.
Schultz says he realized the value of geothermal energy a few years ago when he worked as a hydro-geologic consultant. He read about the positives of the renewable energy source in an industry publication and decided to install his own geothermal system. "Once you start to understand them, it makes complete sense and it's a superior way to heat and cool homes," Schultz says. "How can you beat lower operating costs and increased comfort?"
After his consulting work began to slow down, he followed his passion for renewable energy and formed Earth River Geothermal. Owning a geothermal business is a challenge, Schultz says, but "it's a lot of fun."
Schultz says when small geothermal companies succeed, so do other businesses such as parts suppliers, HVAC contractors, and well drillers. "The trickle down is huge," says Schultz. "Money is being spent locally on equipment that is manufactured in the United States," he adds.
Geothermal is shaping America's clean energy economy, Schultz says. "All the money being spent on geothermal systems is in lieu of importing oil."