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Geothermal Energy Harnessing the earth to heat and cool our homes


(EER) for cooling. ENERGY STAR- qualified models must provide a rating of at least 2.8 COP and 13 EER.


Air-Source


Air-source heat pumps use a system of coils to evaporate a refrigerant and draw heat away from a home, cooling the air. In winter the magic reverses with the flip of a valve, and your home heats.


The system delivers up to three times more heat energy than electricity consumed, but it's not perfect. In Oklahoma, a back-up heating system is needed when air temperatures dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so some cost shaving benefits are lost.


By Megan McKoy-Noe C


onsumers are finally realizing what electric co-ops have been touting for years: Geothermal energy is perhaps


the most successful "green" power available for residential heating and cooling. In a national study, the Cooperative Research Network—a division of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association —revealed 11 percent of homes use a heat pump as their primary heating/cooling system; for all-electric homes it's 29 percent.


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says heats pumps trim overall home heating and cooling costs by as much as 40 percent.


Different heat pumps exist and their success depends on your climate. Air-source heat pumps work well in the Southeast, where temperatures rarely drop below freezing. In colder climates, geothermal heat pumps shine because their heat source remains shielded—the top 10 feet of earth consistently measures between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. A heat pump can save you money if it matches your region and is installed properly.


4 | may-june 2013 | Light Post Geothermal


According to DOE, geothermal heat pumps use the earth's steady temperature to offer energy savings between 30 percent and 60 percent annually. They are typically the most efficient heat pump option.


Geothermal heat pumps move a liquid or water through pipes buried in the ground, then into a home. There are two types of units: a groundwater (open-loop) system uses well or pond water, while an earth-coupled (closed-loop) model uses a water and antifreeze solution. Systems can be installed horizontally or vertically, depending on your available space.


Geothermal efficiency depends on climate, soil and water conditions, and landscaping. For example, soil that transfers heat easily requires less piping. Rocky terrain may require a vertical loop system instead of a more economical horizontal loop system.


When shopping for a geothermal system, compare two elements: coefficient of performance (COP) for heating, and the energy efficiency ratio


When shopping for a unit, compare the seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) for cooling prowess, and heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) for compressor and heating element strength. ENERGY STAR models guarantee a SEER of 12 or more and a HSPF of 7 or more. For warmer climates, SEER is more important than HSPF; in colder climates find a system with a high HSPF.


Saving on Systems


Heat pumps are more expensive than traditional heating and air systems, but rebates and tax credits can help lower the cost. Kiamichi Electric offers rebates of up to $750/ton to members who replace their existing system with a geothermal heat pump. A federal tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost for materials and installation, with no limit on total project expenses, also applies to geothermal heat pumps through Dec. 31, 2016. A list of tax credit requirements can be found at www.energystar.gov/taxcredits.


For details on heat pumps or Kiamichi Electric's rebate offer, contact the co-op at 800-888-2731 or visit www.kiamichielectric.org. ■


Megan McKoy-Noe writes on energy efficiency issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.


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