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Ground Source Heat Pumps Facts


Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs), sometimes referred to as Geo-Exchange, earth-coupled, geothermal heat pumps, or water-source heat pumps, have been in use since the late 1940s. They use the constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. This allows the system to reach fairly high efficiencies (300% to 600%) on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175% to 250% for air-source heat pumps on cool days.


A few feet under the ground, the soil or water remain a constant 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 degrees Celsius) year-round. Just that little bit of warmth can be used to heat or cool homes and offices. Fluid circulates through a series of pipes (called a loop) under the ground or beneath the water of a pond or lake and into a building. An electric compressor and heat exchanger pull the heat from the pipes and send it via a duct system throughout the building. In the summer the process is reversed. The pipes draw heat away from the house and carry it to the ground or water outside, where it is absorbed.


Air Source heat pumps use the ambient air temperature as a source of heat transfer, while geothermal heat pumps utilize the steady temperature of the ground to heat and to cool homes.


Relative to air-source heat pumps, they are quieter, last longer, need little maintenance, and do not depend on the temperature of the outside air.


Geothermal heat pumps exchange heat more efficiently, they are more environmentally friendly.


GSHP systems conserve natural resources by providing climate control very efficiently-thus also lowering emissions.


GSHPs also minimize ozone layer destruction by using factory-sealed refrigeration systems, which will seldom or never have to be recharged.


GSHPs have no open flame, flammable fuel or potentially dangerous fuel storage tanks.


GSHP systems conserve energy, and because they move heat that already exists rather than burning something to create heat, they reduce the amount of toxic emissions in the atmosphere. They use renewable energy from the sun, and because the system doesn't rely on outside air, it keeps the air inside of buildings cleaner and free from pollens, outdoor pollutants, mold spores, and other allergens.


GSHPs are very quiet, providing a pleasant environment inside & outside of the home.


They have no noisy fan units to disturb outdoor activities, on or near the patio.


GSHP package systems are safe and protected. With no exposed equipment outdoors, children or pets cannot injure themselves or damage exterior units. Weather has no effect and tree limbs or leaves can cause no damage.


Most of a GSHP installation is underground. Inside the house, the heat pump units are about the same size as a traditional heating and cooling unit.


GSHPs are durable and highly reliable. They contain fewer mechanical components, and all components are either buried in the ground or located inside the home, which protects them from outside conditions.


The setup costs are higher than for conventional systems, but the difference is usually returned in energy savings in 3 to 10 years. System life is estimated at 25 years for inside components and 50+ years for the ground loop.


The underground pipe carries up to a 50-year warranty.


GSHPs save money, both in operating costs and maintenance costs. Investments can be recouped in as little as three years. There is a positive cash flow, since the energy savings usually exceeds payment on the system.


Currently installed systems are making a huge difference in our environment! The systems are eliminating more than three million tons of carbon dioxide, and is equivalent of taking 650,000 automobiles off the road.


Research has shown that loops have no adverse effects on grass, trees, or shrubs. Most horizontal installations require trenches about six inches wide. Temporary bare areas can be restored with grass seed or sod. Vertical loops require little space and do not damage lawns significantly.


Called dual systems, they can easily be added to existing furnaces for those wishing to have a dual-fuel heating system. Dual-fuel systems use the GSHP system as the main heating source, and a fossil fuel furnace as a supplement in extremely cold weather should additional heat be needed.


Ground source heat pump systems will reduce your heating and cooling costs regardless of how well your home is insulated. However, insulating and weatherizing are key factors in gaining the maximum amount of savings from any type of heating and cooling system.


Federal Tax Credits

Geothermal heat pumps

Tax Credit: 30% of cost with no upper limit.

Expires: December 31, 2016

Details: Existing homes & new construction qualify. Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not qualify.



North Carolina

Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency

Geothermal heat pumps

Incentive Type: Personal Tax Credit

Tax Credit: 35%

Expiration Date: 12/31/2015

Details: A maximum of $8,400 for geothermal heat pumps and geothermal equipment that uses geothermal energy for water heating or active space heating or cooling used for a non-business purpose;



Other Incentives may apply per county:  Utility Loan Program, Utility Rate Discount and Utility Rebate Programs.