Geothermal heat pumps, also known as ground-source heat pumps (GSHP), are a promising green technology that can significantly reduce heating and cooling bills for residential and commercial buildings.
What Is Geothermal Heating and Cooling?
Geothermal heat pumps use the relatively constant temperature of the earth to provide heating, cooling, and hot water to homes, offices, and other buildings. Though surface air temperatures in the continental United States have ranged from minus 70 degrees to more than 130 degrees, six feet underground the earth remains at a relatively constant temperature of about 45 to 75 degrees, depending on latitude. Geothermal heat pumps work by circulating a water or antifreeze solution through pipes buried underground or in water. In winter, the liquid collects heat from the surrounding earth and uses it to heat the building. In summer, the process is reversed and hot air from the building is carried back to the earth and used to provide hot water for the home.
The efficiency of ground-source heat pumps is very high – about 50-70% higher than other heating systems, and 20-40% higher than other cooling systems. Though upfront costs tend to be more expensive, geothermal heat pumps generally come with a 25-50 year guarantee and can save significant money on heating, cooling, and water heating bills over time. The pump usually pays for itself in savings within a few years. Geothermal heat pumps may also be eligible for various state and federal rebates or tax incentives.
The high efficiency of geothermal heat pumps also reduces fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and since there is no external venting, other types of air pollution are also reduced. Geothermal heat pumps are also extremely quiet to operate, reducing noise pollution for both the owners and their neighbors.
Geothermal heat pumps can be installed on almost any size lot and are relatively easy to install, especially for new construction or if replacing a conventional forced air system. There is expected to be growing demand for geothermal heat pumps due to their many financial and environmental benefits, so geothermal installation is a great green career opportunity for HVAC contractors and other green building professionals.
Becoming a Geothermal Heat Pump Installer
For many people, the first step to becoming a geothermal systems installer is HVAC certification through a local community college or other vocational school. Organizations such as North American Technician Excellence and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers offer certification programs for HVAC professionals that can ensure contractors, homeowners, and other customers that you’ve gone the extra mile to prove your competence and professionalism.
The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) offers a number of accreditation courses for people interested in geothermal systems installation. These include drillers training, installation training, design courses for architects and engineers interested in incorporating geothermal systems into their projects, and even courses for experienced installers interested in training others to become installers!
The Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium (GHPC) also offers information on training courses.
Once your training is complete, becoming a member of the IGSHPA and GHPC is a great way to find customers. Both organizations offer searchable directories of geothermal professionals for potential customers.
Geothermal heat pump installation is a promising green career opportunity that will help customers save money and the Earth!