Energy from the earth: Interest in geothermal heating, cooling systems is growing

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From an article by Michael Burke in The Journal Times (Racine):

The earth heats and cools John Schroeder’s home in Madison — and he’s not sitting on a volcano or a glacier.

Schroeder is one of a growing number of people who are turning to geothermal systems to slash their utility bills and reduce their impact on the planet.

That interest promises to usher in a new industry and new kinds of jobs as more people look for ways to limit their fossil fuel addictions.

Bill Furbish, a water systems specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says interest in geothermal systems is growing, and for good reason.

"Geothermal is definitely taking off,” said the specialist with the Bureau of Drinking Water and Ground Water. “It has very strong advantages to conventional heating and cooling. It offers great energy efficiencies.”

A geothermal system operates on the same principle that runs a refrigerator, using heat naturally stored in soil or water to heat and cool homes, businesses and factories.

For an average new house, choosing geothermal over a conventional, 90 percent-efficient furnace and central air-conditioning would raise the cost by $5,000 to $6,000, said Tom Niesen, Gateway Technical College’s lead instructor for Gateway’s lead instructor for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration.

The payback in lower utility bills would be about five years.