Geothermal systems are next big step in energy conservation

You may not know anyone with a geothermal heating and cooling system in the house, but you will soon. With tax credits and financial incentives plus lowered utility bills and increased energy efficiency, the numbers of geothermal homes are growing — and homeowners are singing the praises of "going underground."

James Bose of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association says commercial and residential installations total 50,000 a year now, up from about 2,500 in 1986.

Dave Wagner, manager of commercial and residential channels at KCP&L, installed a system in his Lee’s Summit home in 1985. He notes that geothermal heat pumps may be unfamiliar, but they aren’t new. “The technology has been around for 30 years or more,” he says.

A geothermal system taps into the consistently moderate temperatures underground. A closed system of pipes looped deep in the earth circulates a liquid that captures the subterranean temperature. A compressor and heat pump system then uses that temperature to treat the air that is circulated through the house.

There is no combustion with this system, and no separate air conditioner.

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