Geothermal versus Traditional HVAC: How Do They Compare?

With rising energy costs and increasing concern over the state of the environment, the demand for eco-friendly heating and cooling systems has skyrocketed—and the solution may be right beneath our feet.  Geothermal energy has been around since the beginning of time, and uses the constant temperature from the earth to heat and cool homes and buildings.  How does a geothermal system compare to a traditional HVAC system?  Let’s compare the two:

Advantages of Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems

Geothermal systems have plenty of qualities that make them attractive.  Whether you are looking to lower your carbon footprint or save money on your energy bill, geothermal heating and cooling systems are worth considering.


One of the most appealing aspects of a geothermal system is that it does not rely on fossil fuels to heat and cool homes and buildings.  Geothermal systems transfer heat through a piping system, often referred to as a “loop.”  Water circulates through this piping system to exchange heat between the home, the geothermal heat pump, and the earth.  Because the temperature of the earth remains constant regardless of the season, it is a highly efficient and sustainable method for heating and cooling your home.

This will become even more important as time goes on.  Many businesses are looking to hire eco-friendly contractors that not only install these sustainable systems, but that also take care to recycle their electrical equipment and adopt eco-friendly practices themselves.

Longer Lasting

Geothermal heating and cooling solutions are appealing to many people because they are reliable systems that require less maintenance and repair costs over time.  They outshine traditional HVAC systems in their longevity, as geothermal systems tend to last roughly 25 years, while HVAC systems last around 15 and require repairs and maintenance.


The affordability of a geothermal heating and cooling system depends on many factors, and it is important to evaluate your situation carefully before making any decision.  For example, whether your geothermal system needs to be retrofitted or not, the size of your geothermal system and the drilling conditions will all play a role in whether or not a geothermal system is right for you.

However, those who are building a new home or who need to replace a current heating solution that is too expensive can expect to see a financial payoff with a geothermal system.  While they may be costlier to install initially, the Department of Energy states that geothermal solutions can return energy savings in 5 to 10 years.

Disadvantages of Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems

While there are many appealing qualities of geothermal systems, there are also a few reasons why they are not a good choice for every home or building.

Steep Upfront Costs

The upfront costs of a geothermal heating and cooling system is a huge deterrent to many homeowners, and the payback on these systems may be slow to appear.  Additionally, the payback will also depend on certain factors, including installation costs and the area it is set up in.  Those who are interested should look into financial programs that can help reduce the cost of the initial installation.

Installation Disruption

Horizontal installations, in particular, may cause disruptions around your home while they are being implemented.  There is the chance that the installation could damage your landscape while workers dig a wide and deep trench that will make room for the heat bed.  If this is a concern, homeowners may want to consider a vertical installation instead.

Still Somewhat New

Geothermal heating and cooling systems are still relatively new, and it is therefore difficult to find those who have the expertise to design and install your geothermal system.  Because of this lack of competition, the cost of installation remains high.  The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) has a directory for those who are looking for accredited and experienced geothermal installers, designers, and contractors.

Is a Geothermal System Right for You?

When deciding between conventional HVAC and a geothermal system, it is important that you carefully weigh the pros and cons of each.  In some instances, installing a new HVAC system may be the better choice.  However, those who are undergoing new construction, and want an eco-friendly heating and cooling solution should consider a geothermal system in order to save money and reduce their carbon footprint.