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Geothermal vs. natural gas for our new home

8 years ago
last modified: 8 years ago

Input is much appreciated!

My husband and I bought a lot to build on out in the country, and to our knowledge, only propane was available. We were pretty sold on geothermal because it's efficient, and my husband the engineer thought geothermal would make adding things down the road like solar panels fairly easy. However, we just found out from our electric provider that there is now natural gas available in our area. Here's what we're looking at price-wise:

Geothermal: ~$30,000 for vertical minus a $10,000 break from our builder and whatever the tax return is = <$20,000

Natural gas: Usually a no-brainer as the less costly alternative, but in our case, we're building 650 feet off the road, so our tap fee is $1650 for the first 100 feet and $4/foot after that = ~$3,850. The high efficiency HVAC system we were looking at for the natural gas option was estimated at around $15,000 (all the bells and whistles).

So all things considered, we could be looking at a $5-12,000 difference after a tax rebate. We're wanting to do radiant flooring as well if that makes a difference. Recommendations?

Comments (11)

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    8 years ago

    Where do you live and what are the annual heating-degree days and cooling-degree days? What is the cost of propane, electricity and gas in your area? To analyze properly, you should not simply consider initial expense, but also operating expense and payback, which vary with the efficiency of the units you choose to use. And then there are the practical considerations: For example, what is the historical record for electrical power failures and duration? If loss of electrical power is common, you may need to plan for a generator and secondary emergency power circuitry for a partial or whole house support. Finally, what kind of radiant heating (water or electric) and to what extent? As you can see, there's lots more information that only you have that is necessary. Good luck on your project!

  • Linda Gomez
    8 years ago

    thought you should have a homeowner’s opinion.

    would prefer natural gas heat. It’s a
    warmer heat. The cost of natural gas has
    gone down tremendously! We used to pay
    $125/month for year-round service: furnace,
    water heater, dryer. It went down to
    $95, then $75, and now $54. We don’t
    even have insulation in the majority of our walls! And natural gas IS clean.

    oil is the dirty one. At the end of the
    winter, walls need to be washed down. Of
    course it’s not as dirty as my Grandma’s old house; it burned pure coal.

    is clean, but it is tied into the price per barrel of crude oil; that is highly
    volatile. (The price, not the oil…well
    yes it is; it’s burned for heat. But you know what I mean…)

    heat pump is only efficient down to 30 – 40 degrees. Lower than that requires supplemental heating…maybe
    even a boost from extra electric resistors.
    So your cost effectiveness depends on how many days lower than 30
    degrees your location receives. With the push for solar and wind energy, they
    will be making more efficient heat pumps for the colder climates.

    we are building, there is not natural gas.
    A heat pump may be more efficient now, but we are going with geothermal (this
    is a heat pump, but Delta values will make it run more efficiently) for the
    long term. We bought the acre next door
    so we can run the piping horizontally.

    brother-in-law has an HVAC company; he became certified in geothermal when some
    ICF builders wanted the highest efficiency houses. Once the houses were built, (Mid
    south), the efficiency study determined that a heat pump would be far more
    efficient than adding geothermal with its associated costs. They have tiny electric bills for their large

    former builder had geothermal in a totally cement house. Geothermal lends itself easily to in-floor
    radiant heat. I don’t remember if he had
    AC; he kept his house pretty warm. But
    if you want AC also, you’ll need to run ductwork also.

    don’t know what our energy costs will be in the future. It is the one cost we won’t have much control
    over. The Supreme Court has already determined that the cost of cleaning up
    existing power plants was not taken into consideration by the EPA. Going totally electric and relying mostly on
    solar or wind power lays too much of a financial burden on the utility
    companies…who will only transfer its cost to its customers. Dependence on oil
    puts the power in the Middle East.

    think the key is getting an energy efficient envelope of a house; that’s why
    the heat pumps are more effective with the ICF:
    higher R value. Spend more money on your windows, doors, insulation and
    walls. THAT’s where your biggest savings
    will come from.

  • artemis_ma
    8 years ago

    Where I am moving, natural gas won't be effectively affordable. No lines in the area.

    I am building propane but using air-forced ductwork that can be converted to geothermal when I sell my current home. At that point, I am going geothermal and solar, with propane heat as a back up. (Oh and yes, for jollies, I'm putting in a propane generator and a wood-burning stove -- New England does have a fair share of power outages!)

  • PRO
    Springtime Builders
    8 years ago

    Great replies but can not let the natural gas is clean comment go. I think the jury is still out on how clean it really is. It is likely responsible for setting people's drinking water on fire, ruining the livability of land, and turning many neighbors into enemies.

    Is it cleaner than mountaintop removal mined coal combustion? Maybe. Is it cleaner than solar PV and conservation? Probably not.

  • ILoveRed
    8 years ago house is ten yrs old. We have geothermal. It is a fairly large home. We have five zones.

    we love our geothermal and have not regretted it for a moment.

  • jemdandy
    8 years ago

    On average, geothermal works best south of the Mason-Dixon line. The frost line goes too deep in the northern tier of states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc and the soil is too cold in winter at 6 ft depth for effective geothermal. If natural gas is available, it is the lowest cost per BTU transferred to the house air.

  • missymoo12
    8 years ago

    I have geothermal and I believe the tax rebate runs out in 2016? We could not take the rebate until we got the CO on the house and moved in. Just check your timing and details before you calculate your $. BTW the Geo is fabulous! I went with the Hydronmodule because we wanted to do radiant heat in the basement floor. That puppy heats the whole 6500 sf house through the dead of last couple years - Pennsylvania winters. We have another Carrier unit for the second floor and honestly probably don't need it for heat - AC is like a freezer! Yes it cost an arm and a leg but my monthly bills are half our tiny 1700 SF farmhouse which has an electric HP.

  • PRO
    Springtime Builders
    8 years ago

    There are truths and exceptions to Mr. Dandy's comment. Most of the industry prefers vertical, drilled wells for the ground loop so frost depth is not much of a concern. For cold climates, avoiding air-sourced backup resistance heating is the main appeal for GSHP.

    As for BTU efficiency, that depends on many variables. Allison of Energy Vangaurd does a good job considering gas vs heat pump in The shocking truth about heat pumps.

    Most of his blog assumes air-sourced heat pumps and GSHP tends to have higher COPs than air-sourced. GSHP can have 400-600% energy efficiency conversions which is much more efficient than the highest efficiency gas furnaces. Site vs source energy conversions muddy the picture but many feel that even with devalued site energy use of heat pumps versus source energy use of gas, heat pumps can be more efficient depending on the situations. Here's a GBA thread that touches on Air-source vs GSHP.

  • Bri
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Thank you so much everyone for your comments! I am reading through all of them an truly appreciate all of the input. If it helps, our home is about 2,800 square feet with an unfinished (for now) basement. We're building in Central Ohio, so the temperatures definitely get chilly and stay chilly in the winter months. Though we have the space for horizontal loops, we would do vertical for efficiency. Thank you missmoo12 for the comment about checking to see when the tax credit ends--I didn't event consider it not counting before it's installed. Great point!

  • HU-511166348
    3 years ago

    HI Bri - I am currently choosing between geothermal and natural gas. Curious to see what you ended up choosing for your home and why! Thanks in advance :D