That’s a fair question and one that I’ve heard from others, including my own dad who questioned my sanity when I got into this business.
When presented with the facts, the case is very compelling for many to convert their homes or businesses to geothermal heating and cooling. So why aren’t they?
Well, it’s not all about the facts. Change is not a comfort for most humans. It was Sir Isaac Newton that taught us that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. In other words, if someone has been heating with propane and living without air conditioning for years, despite the availability of a lower cost, more comfortable option, (s)he may not change simply because it’s what (s)he’s used to.
For others, it’s a case of the facts need to be updated. The economic case for geothermal was not as compelling 10 years ago, arguably even a few years ago. Today’s systems are more efficient and less expensive to install due to advances in compressor technology and innovations in ground loop design and construction. Rebates are available to lower the upfront cost. And… the financial and energy sectors are now embracing geothermal as a good investment, making moneys available in the form of longer term, lower interest loans which enable many to convert to geothermal with no money down and immediate net monthly savings.
Bad news always spreads faster and farther than good news. Or, in the case of geothermal installations, you’ll likely hear more about the few installations that did not live up to expectations and/or were fraught with problems, usually due to incompetent designers and/or installers, than the vast majority which have provided years of reliable service and saved their owners thousands. The reality is that a geothermal system requires skilled and customized engineering… and not every Tom, Dick, and Harry or every heating & cooling company is capable. The program that NYSERDA has recently introduced will go a long way toward eliminating those rare (but highly visible) botched installations as they have established quality and training standards which must be met by designers and installers who participate in their ground-sourced (geothermal) heat pump rebate program.
Finally, in my opinion, the geothermal industry has not done a stellar job of promoting the technology and its benefits. By comparison, you’ll hardly find an American – young, old, or somewhere in between – who is unfamiliar with residential solar-powered electricity and its benefits, as that industry has excelled at raising the general awareness to the point of becoming a darling of state and federal government agencies and a cultural juggernaut. Yet, while geothermal is arguably on par with solar as a renewable energy source, it is relatively obscure to most of the population. Federal tax credits for solar were extended from the original 2016 expiration when geothermal was not, purely because the solar lobby was far more organized and persistent.
So, while facts are important, perceptions – accurate or not – and inertia are, too.