The basic question between geothermal energy and natural gas boils down to the fuel source. A natural gas furnace obviously uses natural gas. A geothermal heat pump uses electricity. With geothermal heating, the air is as clean inside as it is outside because there is no combustion.
When evaluating geothermal energy versus natural gas, a geothermal heat pump will never endanger your life or that of your family. A natural gas furnace could literally explode. Is there little chance of that happening? Yes. Is that possibility zero? No, it's not.
A geothermal heat pump (also called a land-based heat pump) is a renewable alternative to a furnace or boiler. It is a fundamental component of a geothermal system. Geothermal systems cost less to operate than electric heat pumps, oil, kerosene, natural gas and propane. By calculating the new costs with a GeoComfort unit of the right size, Phil's loads are significantly relieved.
The difference boils down to fuel and efficiency. Electricity prices are much more stable than domestic natural gas prices, so because our geothermal heat pumps are powered by electricity, homeowners enjoy constant comfort. In the context of efficiency, we also see some important advances for geothermal energy. The gas furnace was a standard model of 80% efficiency, which means that, for every 1 unit of fuel used, the unit produces 0.8 units of useful heating.
Phil was losing useful energy in the inefficient combustion process. GeoComfort units are masters of efficiency. To begin with, they are manufactured with first-rate components to achieve maximum savings and extend the life of the system. However, its greatest benefit is the use of electricity.
This specific GeoComfort geothermal heat pump has an efficiency index of 473% in heating mode, which means that, for each unit of electricity used, the system produces 4.73 units of useful heat for Phil's home. All of this is possible because a geothermal unit is able to take advantage of the heat stored just below the Earth's surface. Learn more about that here. Let's do some calculations to calculate how much energy you would save with a geothermal system, compared to a 96.6% AFUE furnace.
A typical geothermal system can extract between 3.8 and 4 units of thermal energy from the ground, per unit of electrical energy consumed. This means that the system appears to be almost four times more efficient than the high-efficiency furnace (380% compared to 96.6%). It couldn't be clearer that geothermal energy is the answer to many of the country's heating problems. A ground-based heat pump is usually more efficient than an air-source heat pump because there is less fluctuation in temperature underground than in outdoor air.
At the same time, if you live in a rural area, there may not even be an option to install geothermal heating due to lack of availability or demand. Also known as GeoExchange, heat pumps attached to land, terrestrial or with a water source, operate with a small amount of electricity (never natural gas) and are by far the most efficient way to heat and cool a home. The attached specification sheet is for a part of the Climate Master 1991 geothermal heating and cooling equipment. For homeowners who can't afford upfront costs, natural gas can be a much more affordable option than geothermal heating.
In addition, a common misconception about geothermal heating is that it is only available in specific geographical locations. A geothermal heat pump only needs to increase the starting temperature by 20 degrees to keep your home comfortable all year round. With today's state-of-the-art geothermal equipment, more than 80% of heating and cooling energy can come from the earth in a responsible manner. In general, a geothermal system of terrestrial origin will cost you significantly more upfront than a high-efficiency furnace, but it will probably save you a lot of money over its lifespan, compared to any form of heat based on fossil fuels, since you get free heat from the ground (and also cooling) in exchange for a small contribution of electricity to make the system work.
Inspired by Jeff's comment, I did my calculations (I hope I did it right) to see if it makes sense to replace my very old furnace (age and efficiency unknown) with a geothermal heat pump. Only between a third and a quarter of the energy supplied in geothermal heating systems comes from electricity consumption. Department of Energy, investing in a geothermal heat pump can mean a 25 to 50% decrease in energy consumed compared to traditional systems that use air. Because they don't burn fossil fuels and require very little electricity to operate, geothermal heating systems are up to four times more efficient than traditional furnaces.
The key difference between geothermal energy and natural gas is that geothermal energy is not intrinsically dependent on the resource, while natural gas is. . .