Home goes 'geothermal'

Tuesday, September 30th 2008, 7:34 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

Kiss high heating and air conditioning bills, furnace inefficiencies and hot and cold drafts goodbye.

Geothermal energy systems in the home are becoming more widespread throughout the country, and even in Oklahoma.

Geothermal systems take advantage of natural resources, using the renewable energy of sunlight and the energy that's stored underground.

The Connolly's couldn't be happier as they're getting ready for retirement and building a home that they'll live in for the rest of their lives. They're becoming more energy independent in the process -- by going 'geothermal.'

"It's a good way to save the environment and save a lot of money when we retire," Scott Connolly said.

A geothermal system is said to be significantly more efficient than conventional home heating and cooling.

"Instead of using the air to transfer heat to and from, it uses the ground," Scott Hunnewell with Hunnewell Homes said.

According to Hunnewell, the ground in Oklahoma is consistently 57 degrees. And the sun's energy is continuously absorbed by the ground. In the geothermal process, a heat pump transfers that thermal mass from the ground, into the house. It can heat, cool and it warms up water.

The startup cost is $20,000, but advocates said energy bills will be 30 to 70 percent lower, allowing full recovery of the initial investment in three to eight years.

"The goal was to lower our utility bills, and have some sort of control," Scott Connolly said.

So the Connollys are willing to pay the money upfront, for savings down the line.

"We have a responsibility to preserve the resources of this earth for future generations and this is part of it," Marie Connolly said.

The builder on the Connolly's home is also adding thicker walls with special insulation, low - e windows which keep heat in or out of the house and securing the attic to also keep air in or out.

You don't have to build a new home to 'go geothermal.' An existing home can be retrofitted for a geothermal system. In some cases, it may cost less than the estimated $20,000 start up cost.