Geothermal Heating: Get The Facts

Homeowners have several good options for heating their homes: an electric furnace, a gas furnace, a boiler, or a heat pump. One less common, but excellent, choice is using geothermal energy to heat your house. This innovative heating method definitely deserves consideration when you are thinking about installing a new heating system.

What Is It?

Geothermal heating systems typically consist of a heat pump and a series of pipes that loop underground. The pipes are buried in the earth, or less commonly, under a lake or pond on the homeowner's property. Geothermal heat pump systems, also known as ground heat pumps, take advantage of the temperature underground being consistent throughout the year. This results in the temperature several feet beneath the surface being cooler in summer and warmer in the winter than the temperature above ground.

How It Works

A geothermal heat pump powers a fluid, which might be water, that travels through a loop of pipes under the surface. The fluid is warmed or cooled by the temperature underground and then returns to the heat pump, where that heat is distributed as warm or cool air throughout the house by a heat exchanger.

For example, during cold weather during the winter, the geothermal heat pump system takes heat from below the surface to heat your home. One key advantage heat pumps have over conventional heating systems is that they heat and cool. In addition to keeping your home warm in the winter, a geothermal heat pump will use cooler temperatures below the earth in the summer to transfer that coolness to your house.

Horizontal vs.Vertical

When you install a geothermal heat pump system on your property, you have to make a decision on how the pipes are set in the ground. The two main choices are horizontal and vertical. A horizontal system is a good choice for homeowners if enough land is available. Trenches are dug a few feet below the surface, typically at least four feet deep.

If the amount of available land is limited, a vertical lopping system might be necessary. This requires that holes be dug to a depth of 100 to 400 feet, according to An advantage of vertical looping is that it minimizes the disruption of the landscape.


Geothermal heat pumps system cost about 30 to 40 percent more to install than other heating systems. The average cost is $13,695 as of 2022. Fortunately, you can recover your costs over time because the system will lower your energy bills. Your installation cost can be offset in about five to 10 years, advises the Department of Energy.

To learn more about geothermal heating systems, consult a heating services contractor.