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Geo sells itself

Efficiency and cost, not grants, are the main draws


January 7, 2011
By Stan Marco

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Over the past three or four years, home and business owners across the
country have benefited from an influx of federal and provincial retrofit
grants supporting geothermal installations. But just as quickly as they
arrived on the scene, the federal grants have come to an end and some
provincial grants will be expiring at the end of March in 2011.

Over the past three or four years, home and business owners across the country have benefited from an influx of federal and provincial retrofit grants supporting geothermal installations. But just as quickly as they arrived on the scene, the federal grants have come to an end and some provincial grants will be expiring at the end of March in 2011. So what does this mean for the geothermal industry moving forward? It means it’s time to get back to the basics.

Long before financial incentives, geothermal technology was selling itself strictly on its own merits – with the industry increasing at a rate of 23 per cent in Canada and a slower rate of nearly 10 per cent in the United States. Some might argue that the recent grants made it affordable in the eyes of consumers, but home and business owners were investing in this technology long before this support was available, and they will continue to do so in the future, simply because the technology makes sense.

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Geothermal technology isn’t new. It’s been marketed residentially for more than 30 years. And it’s from the past that we can take our lessons for the future. I can’t think of an alternative energy technology that sells itself better than geothermal. It works every day of the year on demand whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. With energy costs continuing to soar, geothermal makes more sense as an energy alternative than ever before.

The energy cost savings can often pay back the initial investment in as few as five years. A home or business owner’s return on investment could be anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent.

Geothermal technology can dramatically reduce annual costs for heating, cooling and hot water by as much as 75 per cent compared with ordinary furnaces and air conditioners. And who doesn’t want to save money these days?

These systems have always been touted for their energy efficiency and over time the technology has evolved to make them even more so. Some of the heat pumps on the market today have an energy efficiency rating of nearly 500 per cent. For every dollar of electrical energy these pumps use, they generate almost five dollars of energy output to heat and cool a home or business.

Geothermal systems are among the most reliable energy sources available. When installed correctly, they can provide home and business owners with years of worry-free, maintenance-free comfort. What conventional systems can offer that level of reliability? I can’t name one.

Leverage the geothermal software tools that are at your disposal. While these tools have been available within the industry for many years, they have truly evolved over time. One of the tools that excites me most is the design studio software available to do energy analysis. It has the capability to compare the energy costs of a new geothermal system to the energy costs of a home or business’s existing system, or the energy costs of a new conventional system installed in a new house.

The software program generates a report that shows the home or business owner what the energy costs would be with geothermal and what they would be if installing a conventional fuel source, and includes the expected capital costs for installing geothermal versus a conventional system.

The financial bliss of the grants period allowed us to push geothermal technology to the forefront as a viable energy alternative through education and awareness. It allowed us to educate people about the benefits of alternative versus conventional energy sources. Faced with skyrocketing costs for fossil fuels and electricity, consumers and business owners were eager to find more cost-effective and eco-friendly alternatives for heating and cooling.

That hasn’t changed. With or without grants, geothermal sells itself.

Stan Marco is a well-respected and highly sought after geothermal knowledge expert and educator. He is an active member within the ground water community, is a board member with the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition and is cofounder and CEO of GeoSmart Energy and GeoSmart Drilling Services.