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Last Real Estate news

Green Living: Geothermal Energy

Green Living: Geothermal Energy


Source: realtytimes.com

It may not be a term that you are used to hearing, but in recent years, the prevalence of geothermal energy has been growing.

The Geothermal Energy Association reports, "Geothermal power is growing rapidly across the globe. ... [The] Geothermal Energy: International Market Update found that between 2005 and 2010 the United States retained its leadership in production with most MW installed, while Germany was the fastest growing geothermal power producer. "

For the residential sector, increased interest in this renewable energy source is thanks in part to the generous tax credit available for the next 5 years. According to Energy.gov, "Consumers who install solar energy systems (including solar water heating and solar electric systems), small wind systems, geothermal heat pumps, and residential fuel cell and microturbine systems can receive a 30% tax credit for systems placed in service before December 31, 2016."

Here's how it works. In simple terms, geothermal systems harness heat and energy from below the earth's surface by pumping up hot water and steam. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA) says, "Heat from the earth can be used as an energy source in many ways, from large and complex power stations to small and relatively simple pumping systems." This means that everything from deep wells at power plants to small drill sites in our backyards can be harnessed as energy sources.

You may have learned in elementary school that below the earth's surface is boiling hot magma. (Magma being a layer of hot, molten rock.) This heat is the result of decaying and naturally occurring radioactive material. And it is just that heat that geothermal activists are embracing. How much energy is available for consumption? The UCSUSA reports, "The amount of heat within 10,000 meters (about 33,000 feet) of Earth's surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all the oil and natural gas resources in the world."

How can you integrate this science into your own home? You'd probably be interested in what is known as a "ground-source heat pump." Just a few feet below the surface, you'll find the earth maintains a constant temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. According to UCSUSA, "Either air or antifreeze liquid is pumped through pipes that are buried underground, and re-circulated into the building. In the summer, the liquid moves heat from the building into the ground. In the winter, it does the opposite, providing pre-warmed air and water to the heating system of the building."

In terms of price, the initial costs are offset in the first five to ten years, as the homeowner saves on energy bills. The California Energy Commission estimates a system (with the necessary drilling) to start around $17,500. These units are durable, quiet, easy to maintain, offer year-round comfort, and are claimed to save as much as 70 percent over traditional heating costs.

If you are looking for an effective way to go green in your home, consider using geothermal energy.