Installing a geothermal heat pump is a great way to save money on your space heating costs, which accounts for about 42% of the energy used in most American homes today. By installing a geothermal heat pump, a homeowner can expect to save up to 75% on their heating costs, and 50% on domestic hot water heating costs. But the geothermal heat pump cost, that is, the cost to install the system, can be high, and that upfront cost can be enough to keep some homeowners from upgrading their heating and cooling systems.
Fortunately, there are ways to save money on your geothermal heat pump installation. Here are our five tips to minimize the upfront cost of your new heat pump.
Insulate Your Home First
This first tip may seem like it has nothing to do with installing a heat pump, but hear us out. The size of the geothermal heat pump you’ll need depends on the heat load of your home. A home’s heat load is the required amount of heat to warm your home on the coldest day of the year. Your home’s heat load is calculated by your heat pump installer, who will take several factors into consideration, like:
- The home’s location and size
- The number and age of windows and doors
- The amount of square footage below grade
- The insulation levels in your walls and ceiling
Note the last bullet point: the insulation levels.
Now, you can’t change a lot of the items on that list above. You can’t change the size of your home or the location, but you can change the insulation. By adding insulation to your home, you’ll decrease the amount of heat that escapes through the walls and ceiling, which will decrease the amount of heat required to keep the home warm.
If you need less heat, you’ll need a smaller heat pump. If you need a smaller heat pump, you’ll need a smaller energy supply source or ground loop. Since the heat pump and the ground loop are the two largest components of a typical heat pump installation, minimizing the size of these two components will save you money.
Research Rebates on Heat Pumps
Many provincial, state and federal governments offer rebates on heat pumps and other financial incentives. Whether it’s a financial incentive like a cash rebate or heat pump financing solution such as the one offered by Nova Scotia Power, there are many programs available today that help defray the cost of your geothermal heat pump installation.
There are a few things to keep in mind when researching grant programs. First, make sure that the grant applies to your unique situation. For example, this $1,900 rebate on heat pumps in Nova Scotia from Efficiency Nova Scotia is only available to homeowners retrofitting from electric heating sources. That means if you are retrofitting from an oil fired furnace or boiler, you do not qualify for this rebate.
Each grant and rebate program will have their own unique set of qualification criteria, so make sure to read the fine print carefully.
Obtain Multiple Quotes
Due of the nature of the geothermal heat pump business, quotes between installers can vary widely. For example, if you require a vertical ground loop for your geothermal heat pump, one installer may have their own drill rig, while the other will have to contract the drilling out to a third party. The second installer’s quote will be higher for the same work.
We recommend you obtain at least three quotes for your geothermal heat pump installation, to make sure you are receiving a fair price. Always make sure your installer is certified through either the Canadian Geoexchange Coalition or the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, and always, always, check references.
Understand What is an Upsell, and What is Important
Geothermal heat pumps tend to be installed in homes where comfort is valued. They provide exceptionally comfortable, even heating and cooling at a low cost. That said, there are ways to make your geothermal installation even more comfortable. For example, your installer may suggest setting up multiple zones in your home so you can control each room individually. This will increase your comfort level, but it will also add to the cost.
On the other hand, there are some features that you should not cut costs on, like backup heat. Geothermal heat pumps are extremely reliable and last a long time, but in the event of a malfunction, a backup heat source will keep your home comfortable and warm until the technician arrives.
Invest in Maintenance
Geothermal heat pumps do not require regular visits from service technicians, like oil furnaces, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely maintenance free. If you have a water to air heat pump and ductwork in your home, you’ll need to perform maintenance on your heat pump’s air filter. If you have a pleated air filter, you’ll need to vacuum it once every six months and replace it after one or two cleanings.
If you have an electrostatic air filter, you don’t need to replace this air filter and can instead clean it with hot soapy water every six months. An electrostatic air filter is more expensive up front, but you won’t need to spend as much on replacement filters.
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012/