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PATH Case Study

In the Loop:

Rising Fuel Costs Power Geothermal Heat Pumps


Printable Version [.pdf, 1.15 MB]

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Dan Green
Water Source Heating & Cooling
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

The Technology:

Geothermal Heat Pumps

The Project:

A 3,000-plus-square-foot ranch house, with 1,800 square feet of finished space, was converted from an oil-based heating and cooling system to a geothermal system.

"Most of our work comes through word-of-mouth referrals, especially once customers start seeing the big savings in their energy bills."

-- Dan Green



If there is enough room on the property, Green prefers to install a geothermal heat pump using horizontal ground loops, which are more economical than vertical. Graphic courtesy of the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium. "We were asked to install a GHP system in a house in Alma Center, Wisconsin, where the homeowner had been using around 1,500 gallons a year of fuel oil for heating," says Green. "At current market prices, that puts the HVAC operating costs at about $3,700 a year. That's pretty expensive for anyone, especially an older woman on a fixed income. We had installed a geothermal heat pump in her daughter's home a couple years ago. Because of the savings, she wanted us to look at installing GHP in her mother's house."

"Most of our work comes through word-of-mouth and referrals, especially once customers start seeing big savings in their energy bills. Word spreads fast when that happens."

"We have been working with certain builders who have been putting geothermal in homes for years. After they started seeing how happy their customers ended up, they now offer it in all their homes. Plus, it really allows the builders to set themselves apart from their competitors."


"In the previous winter, the mother had paid about $2.50 a gallon for fuel oil. She's now saving over $3,000 a year, which means the entire system can be paid for with less than five years of energy savings. The net operating cost of the geothermal heat pump is about six to eight times cheaper than a conventional HVAC, which is about $500 per year. The client now only burns about 50 gallons a year in oil as a backup system during extreme temperatures."

"The project, ground loops included, cost her about $14,000. Right away, people always say it's too much money. But, when you explain how the system works, how much money clients save on their energy bills, and that these systems--particularly the expensive loops--last a long time, people start to come around. Geothermal loops can last hundreds of years."

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Dan Green, owner of Water Source Heating and Cooling, has been in the heating, ventilation, and cooling business since 1983. Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) make up 90 percent of his business, with 60 to 80 GHP installations a year.

Why he uses GHPs:

With high temperatures in the summer and near-zero in the winter, the Midwest is an ideal market for GHPs. Green started installing GHPs for clients who wanted a more efficient alternative. With the increasing cost of energy, GHP has become his primary source of business.

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Content updated on 9/25/2006

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