Heating: Should You Switch from Gas to Geothermal?
LESLIE: Satisfied guy; writing down his answer, knows exactly what to get. Phil in Pennsylvania wants to talk about geothermal furnaces. I know it’s Tom’s favorite subject. How can we help, Phil?
PHIL: I recently went to a fair up here in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. And this guy had this stand set up there and he was kind of … a little air conditioner set up and blowing and what not. Well, I have a forced air furnace; it’s natural gas. And he said that if I switched over furnaces, it would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of, oh, eight to ten thousand dollars that I … it’d be like burying a gas tank in my backyard and I’d be able to save a lot of money with these geothermal furnaces. What could you tell me about it? Is that true?
TOM: So you have a perfectly functioning gas furnace, right now. The guy wants 10 grand to convert you to an electric geothermal system, correct?
TOM: Big mistake. You know, the first choice on fuel for heating your home, in terms of cost, is gas. Even though gas is more expensive this year and gas and oil are going to continue to go up, it would have to go up an enormous amount for me to recommend a heat pump or a geothermal heat pump or electric heat pump over that. That would be sort of my … probably my third to fourth choice. First, I’d take gas; then, I’d take oil; then, I’d take propane; then, I might take a geothermal heat pump; and then, I might take an electric heat pump; and after that comes electric resistance heat. (laughing) That would be the order of events, in my mind.
LESLIE: (laughing) I can see why it’s your favorite, Tom.
TOM: Yeah, you know why? Because you have to put in the … it basically uses the constant temperature of the ground, as part of the refrigeration cycle, to heat and cool your house. And anytime I’ve seen these and talked to the guys that install them about warranties and things like that, they’ll say, “Well, that ground loop’s warranteed for 25 years.” “Yeah, but does that include labor?” “Well, no.” (chuckling) You know? But what if you have to tear up your whole ground to replace it if you have a break in that thermal loop?
But more to the point of your question – since you already have gas, I would definitely not switch off of gas and go geothermal. No way, no how.
PHIL: Well, I really appreciate clearing that up for me.
TOM: Alright, Phil. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.