Geothermal Heat Pumps, What’s ‘Green’ about them?

“Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from sitting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.”

Let’s dissect the end of this definition and see why the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy have both recognized geothermal heat pump systems as the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly heating and cooling systems available.

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Economy – The efficiency of a geothermal heat pump is rated by COP (Co-efficient of Performance) and EER (Energy Efficiency Ration).  In our Northwest climate, we’re primarily concerned with the COP which relates to heating efficiency.  The COP may be simply defined as the amount of energy used in relation to the amount of energy produced in equivalent terms.  Most geothermal heat pumps achieve COP’s up to and between 4.0 – 5.0.  This means they are producing 4-5 units of energy for every 1 unit consumed to operate.  Too put it plainly, geothermal heat pumps are 400-500% efficient in heating modes!

Utility & Durability – Safe, secure & solid.  Geothermal heat pumps do not use fossil fuels, they create no rust, rot or corrosion (excluding direct exchange systems which we do not install).  The minimal amount of refrigerant used is within a small circuit in the heat pump equipment.  The ground loop fluid is primarily water with a small amount of added alcohol to lower the freezing temperature.  Life expectancy for geothermal heat pumps is up to 25 years according to most manufacturers.  Compare this to a standard life expectancy of 12 years for air source heat pumps, 15 years for air conditioners and 18 years for fuel furnaces (ASHRAE).

Comfort – Geothermal heat pumps deliver consistent temperatures to your home whether in forced air or hydronic systems.  Modern fans efficiently mix air from all corners of your home with efficiently maintained air temperatures from the heat pump.  This creates a more even temperature throughout your home and requires less energy to balance previously hot and cold areas.
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Peace of Mind – I’m adding this one on because of the extremely high satisfaction ratings from geothermal heat pump consumers.  Specialty Heating & Cooling has been installing geothermal heat pump systems in the Portland, OR area for over 20 years.  We take great pleasure staying in contact with our customer base and have taken not of the minimal amount of service & maintenance required by our geothermal customers.  Please feel free to call today if you’d like to speak to someone who has a geothermal heat pump system in their home.  A generous amount of our customers have voluntarily asked to be used as references so we’re happy to connect you!


Mark P., Geothermal System Advisor

Specialty Heating & Cooling

ab U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (October 28, 2009). Green Building Basic Information.

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