For those interested in clean energy, geothermal energy is one of the most exciting options out there. This form of energy works by tapping into the heat that resides in the core of the Earth. As radioactive materials deep within the ground decay, they produce a lot of extra heat that we can harness to use as a form of fuel.
One of the most popular forms of geothermal energy currently in use is geothermal heat pumps, but this type of energy can also be used to heat water and even generate electricity. While geothermal energy is very promising, it also has some potential downsides. Here is what you need to know about the pros and cons of geothermal energy.
Pro: Provides Renewable Energy
Geothermal energy doesn’t require us to constantly use up an ever-decreasing amount of fossil fuels. Instead, it’s a natural byproduct that Earth already produces. Experts estimate that geothermal energy will continue to exist for another 5 billion years. This is great news for those who are interested in sustainability. When you use geothermal energy, you don’t have to worry that it’s going to run out any time soon.
Pro: Mostly Free to Operate
Geothermal energy does have some costs associated with setup. However, once your system is in place, operating is fairly affordable. Much like solar, the whole point of geothermal energy is that it does not use fuel. You don’t have to pay an electric or gas company to operate a geothermal system. Instead, the heat from Earth naturally powers a geothermal system.
Some small costs might be associated with using electricity to power the control systems. Still, the majority of the power for your system will be free. If you want to save money in the long run and quit having to pay monthly utility bills, a geothermal system can be an excellent choice. For example, a geothermal heat pump can save around 60% on a homeowner’s energy bills.
Geothermal energy is a very green source of energy. Since it just collects existing heat, it doesn’t produce a lot of emissions. Unlike burning fuel to produce power, geothermal energy does not produce carbon dioxide or a lot of other harmful gases.
This lack of emissions has several benefits. For families with a geothermal system at their home, it means improved air quality and less risk of respiratory issues. It also helps to combat global warming. Fewer emissions mean fewer greenhouse gases that trap warmth on the planet and cause problems like rising sea levels. Geothermal energy has one of the lowest carbon footprints of all types of energy production.
Pro: Constantly Available
A big problem with other forms of clean energy is that they come and go. A day without wind or a rainy week can mean your house doesn’t get enough power to function. Geothermal energy is far more reliable. Earth is constantly outputting a lot of extra heat at a steady rate. This means you never have to worry about your supply of energy fluctuating. No matter what the weather’s like, you still get plenty of excellent fuel.
Pro: Doesn’t Take Up Much Space
Another big perk of geothermal energy systems is that they’re built down instead of out. You don’t need a broad, flat field that you can fill with a lot of bulky technology. Instead, you just need a small portion of ground where you can dig down into the soil. This is very useful for homeowners who live in dense communities. You can get clean energy without needing to spend a lot of money on a massive yard.
Pro: Extremely Energy Efficient
Geothermal systems operate under the principle of heat transfer, so they are incredibly efficient. There is almost no energy expenditure, especially when using geothermal systems to warm a home. Heat easily moves between various locations, so warming a home is as simple as taking heat from one area and placing it in another. Geothermal systems are also more efficient at producing electricity compared to other fuel-burning systems.
Con: Works Best in Certain Regions
Due to the way geothermal energy works, it’s easiest to collect in areas with a lot of tectonic plate boundaries. This means that some homeowners will find it a lot easier and more affordable to get geothermal energy. Meanwhile, other locations may struggle to find a lot of accessible areas to set up geothermal power plants. Most energy within the United States is more accessible on the west coast Certain parts of the southeastern United States aren’t a good candidate for this form of energy production.
Con: Pricey Installation
The main reason people don’t install a geothermal heat pump is that it can be costly compared to traditional central air conditioning. This sort of power source requires a lot of complex equipment and lengthy labor to install. It’s a major construction project that uses many specialized components.
As you can imagine, drilling a hole deep into your yard can be quite expensive. The average project can range from around $12,000 to $30,000. This price might feel prohibitive. However, remember that the system’s energy savings and long lifespan mean you will reap the benefit of lower monthly bills for a long time. While the investment is eventually worth it, some people will not want to save up enough money or find financing for this project.
Con: May Cause Other Unwanted Environmental Effects
Geothermal power sources don’t produce a lot of emissions, but they can have detrimental environmental effects in other ways. Creating and operating a geothermal energy site requires a lot of water. This can deplete water in aquifers or other natural water sources.
The process can also disturb below-ground compounds like sulfur dioxide, which can potentially pollute some above-ground sites. Some common pollutants produced by geothermal energy include sulfur, silica, arsenic, mercury, and nickel. It is possible to mitigate this effect, but it requires people to be careful about the types of geothermal energy they install and the installation process.
Con: May Cause Earthquakes
In rare cases, some earthquakes have potentially been linked to geothermal systems. Though this is quite unlikely, it’s still important to be aware of this con before installing any geothermal energy source. Not all types of geothermal energy carry this risk. It mostly occurs in projects where high-pressure water is forced through the ground to create a tiny network of fractures. This can potentially activate faults and trigger an earthquake. It’s essential for all geothermal energy projects to be carefully planned, designed, and executed by experts to mitigate this risk.
If you would like to find out more about using geothermal energy for your home, turn to Friar's Heating and Air. Our team of experts can help you learn about geothermal products and explore your options. In addition to geothermal energy, we also provide a wide variety of cooling, heating, and solar services throughout the San Diego region. Contact Friar's Heating and Air to schedule your appointment today.