Do Geothermal Heat Pumps Use A Lot Of Electricity?

What is a Geothermal Heat Pump?

A geothermal heat pump is an energy efficient heating and cooling system that leverages the constant temperatures just below the earth’s surface to regulate indoor temperatures. Unlike air-source heat pumps that exchange heat with the outside air, geothermal heat pumps exchange heat with the ground through a loop system of pipes buried underground (

These underground loops circulate water or an antifreeze solution through pipes to either absorb heat from the ground in winter or dissipate heat into the cooler ground in summer. The geothermal heat pump system uses a heat exchanger and compressor to concentrate the absorbed or dissipated heat to regulate indoor air temperatures via a traditional ductwork system (

There are two main types of geothermal heat pump systems: horizontal loop systems, where pipes are buried in long horizontal trenches, and vertical loop systems, where pipes are buried in vertical boreholes drilled deep underground. Both work on the same principles of exchanging heat with the stable underground temperatures.

Geothermal Heat Pumps Use Less Electricity

While geothermal heat pumps do require electricity to operate, they are much more energy efficient than conventional HVAC systems. According to Dandelion Energy, geothermal heat pumps use 25-50% less electricity than traditional heating and cooling systems (source). This efficiency comes from the fact that geothermal systems only require electricity to run the pump and fan units – the heating and cooling is provided by the stable underground temperatures. On Reddit, one user reported their annual electricity costs dropping from $500 with AC to $1,511 with geothermal (source). Overall, the electricity savings from high efficiency geothermal heat pumps are significant compared to conventional HVAC systems.

Upfront Costs vs Long Term Savings

Geothermal heat pump systems have significantly higher upfront costs compared to conventional HVAC systems. Installing a new geothermal system can cost $20,000-$30,000 for an average home, whereas a standard air source heat pump or furnace may only cost $5,000-$10,000 (1). The geothermal ground loop installation and special drilling equipment add to the initial price tag.

However, geothermal systems provide substantial energy savings over time that make up for the higher initial investment. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal heat pumps can save homeowners 20-60% on overall heating and cooling costs compared to conventional systems (2). This amounts to average savings of $300-$1500 per year on utility bills for heating and cooling.

Most geothermal systems have a payback period of 3-10 years. After this point, the accumulated energy savings from using a geothermal pump outweigh the upfront costs (3). Homeowners can recoup their investment in under a decade and continue to realize utility bill savings for decades after with minimal maintenance costs.


Power Usage Overview

The main components of a geothermal heat pump system that require electricity are the compressor, fan, and backup electric resistance heaters. The compressor and fan are used to move the heat transfer fluid through the ground loop piping and heat pump unit. According to Seattle Geothermal Heatpump Pros, the average geothermal heat pump will consume 1.5-6 kWh of electricity per hour when operating. Over the course of a year, total electricity usage will depend on climate and how many hours per day the system runs. In a moderate climate, annual electricity usage for a geothermal system is estimated at 9,000-15,000 kWh. Backup electric resistance heat may be used in extremely cold weather when the geothermal heat pump cannot meet 100% of heating demand. However, these only operate a few days per year at most.

In comparison, a conventional HVAC system such as an air-source heat pump or furnace will use 15,000-25,000 kWh per year for heating and cooling. Geothermal systems offer a 30-70% reduction in electricity usage for climate control. According to AirPureLife, this translates into over $1,000 in annual savings on electric bills for heating and cooling with a geothermal system versus traditional options.

Electricity Usage Factors

The amount of electricity a geothermal heat pump uses depends on several key factors:

The size of the home and geothermal system. Larger homes with extensive ductwork and bigger geothermal units will use more electricity for heating and cooling. Per square foot, geothermal systems use about 30-60% less electricity than conventional systems. But absolute usage rises for larger installations (1).

Climate and soil type. Colder climates and soils with poorer heat conductivity lead to higher electricity usage. The soil composition affects the exchange of thermal energy for heating and cooling (2).

Type of geothermal system. There are two main types: closed loop and open loop. Closed loops are more energy efficient overall but require electricity to run the circulating pumps. Open loops use well water directly so don’t need circulating pumps (3).

Age and maintenance. Older geothermal heat pumps tend to use more electricity. Proper maintenance like checking refrigerant levels improves efficiency and reduces electricity usage (4).

In summary, many factors impact how much electricity a geothermal system uses. But generally they use far less than conventional HVAC systems.

Government Incentives

There are various government incentives available to help offset the upfront costs and provide motivation for installing geothermal heat pumps. The main incentives are rebates and tax credits at both the federal and state level.

At the federal level, there is an investment tax credit that allows homeowners to deduct 30% of the installation costs of a geothermal heat pump system from their federal taxes, through December 31, 2032. The tax credit will decrease to 26% in 2033. Eligibility requirements and other details can be found through the IRS and EnergyStar.

Many U.S. states and utility companies also offer additional rebates and tax incentives for installing a geothermal heat pump. For example, states like Texas and California offer property tax exemptions, grants, or rebates on top of the federal tax credit. The amount and type of state incentives varies, so homeowners should research what is available in their area. This site provides an overview of state geothermal incentives.

Taking advantage of these financial incentives allows homeowners to recoup some of the upfront investment in a geothermal system. The long-term energy savings and environmental benefits make geothermal an attractive option, especially with rebates and tax credits to offset the initial costs.

Environmental Benefits

Geothermal heat pumps provide substantial environmental benefits compared to conventional HVAC systems that use fossil fuels. By utilizing renewable geothermal energy from the ground or water sources, geothermal systems help reduce dependence on non-renewable energy sources like natural gas, oil, and coal.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by over 50% compared to conventional systems. The EPA estimates geothermal systems can reduce carbon emissions by up to 5 tons per year for an average household.

With growing concern about climate change and sustainability, geothermal systems support key environmental initiatives to transition to renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This makes geothermal an attractive “green” technology for environmentally-conscious homeowners and businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Considerations for Installation

Properly installing a geothermal heat pump system requires evaluating several factors about the home and property. Three key considerations are home size and foundation, yard space requirements, and climate suitability.

Larger homes with basements or crawl spaces offer more flexibility for installing the buried loop piping than smaller homes on concrete slabs. Homes with ample yard space also provide more options for horizontal or vertical loop fields. The required yard space depends on the loop length, which is determined by the home’s heating and cooling needs. According to the Department of Energy, the loop length for a typical home is 400-600 feet per ton of heating or cooling capacity [1].

Climate is another important factor, as geothermal heat pumps work most efficiently in moderate temperature zones that require both heating and cooling. Colder regions require supplementary heat sources during frigid winters. Hot humid climates still benefit from geothermal cooling capacity, but dehumidification needs may require additional equipment [2].

New Developments in Technology

There have been some exciting new developments in geothermal heat pump technology in recent years focused on improving efficiency and performance. Some key innovations include:

Hybrid geothermal systems: These systems combine a geothermal heat pump with a supplemental heating source like a gas furnace or electric heating coils. The hybrid setup allows the system to maintain efficiency in extremely cold weather when the ground temperature is cooler. This maximizes savings compared to conventional HVAC systems 1.

Smart monitoring and automation: New geothermal heat pumps can connect to smart home platforms and the internet to enable remote monitoring, analysis, and control. This allows for tracking performance metrics, optimizing settings, and predictive maintenance. Smart geothermal systems aim to maximize efficiency and diagnose issues early on 1.

Additional innovations in compressor tech, thermosiphon design, and loop field configuration are leading to incremental gains as well. Ultimately these developments serve to improve the lifecycle savings and environmental benefits of geothermal heat pump systems.


In summary, geothermal heat pumps use significantly less electricity than conventional HVAC systems. While there are considerable upfront costs to install a geothermal system, the long term energy savings mean that these systems pay for themselves over time. On average, geothermal heat pumps use 25-50% less electricity than conventional air source heat pumps and furnaces. This makes them an energy efficient and environmentally friendly option for heating and cooling homes and buildings.

The key points:

  • Geothermal heat pumps use far less electricity to operate compared to conventional systems.
  • There are higher upfront installation costs, but long term savings on monthly energy bills.
  • Power usage is optimized through an underground loop system and the stable temperature of the earth.
  • Many factors influence electricity consumption such as climate, system size and pump efficiency.
  • There are government rebates and tax incentives to offset the initial investment.
  • Geothermal systems reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

In conclusion, geothermal heat pumps require less electricity and provide savings over time. The higher upfront cost can deter some homeowners, but incentives and long term benefits make them an attractive option.

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