I really wish there was a “truth in advertizing” requirement in the USA. I just stumbled across a new housing community that claims they will save you “thousands of dollars a year” on your HVAC.
But before I unleash my math on you, I should point out I am actually a proponent of geothermal and solar and other “green energy” sources. They are good for the environment and the long term maintainability of the Earth.
People need too see it for what it is … help to save the planet; “yes” … help to save you loads of money; “no”.
Lighthouse Crossing is the only community in the Delmarva region where geothermal HVAC will be a standard feature of every new home. Geothermal HVAC taps into a plentiful (and cheap) source of energy from the ground
The energy savings are dramatic – from 30 percent to as much as 80 percent lower than conventional systems, which will amount to thousands of dollars a year.
Lighthouse Crossing – Why We’re Different
I did some math and it gets very interesting …
First, the minimum value of their claim would be $2,000 per year – anything less could not be called “thousands”. So let’s take the minimum. Now lets look at a home at the opposite end of the spectrum – the old farmhouse I rented for the past two years. I griped about the drafts all winter and the stress of the aging AC heatpumps. I’ll be honest, in the winter months (part of November and part of March and 100% of the months in between, I burned lots of oil – average was 100 gallons a month so my total for the heating season was 450 gallons. It could have been higher if I wanted it “real toasty” so let’s take that worse case and assume 50% more for the coldest months to make it nice and hot inside – so 650 gallons. Now let’s add the AC. My non AC electrical was never below $35/month. My cooling months were June thru August and a sporadic in September. During the peak of summer, my electric would go as high as $100/month. So, my cooling costs were $65/month for not more 4 months. That’s another $260. If home heating out were $3.50 (the average of the high prices two winters ago vs last winter) then my heat was $1,575 and a very toasty hose would have been $2,275.
These numbers say that the old drafty and un-insulated rental used between $1,835 and $2,535 for HVAC. If you use my real numbers, there was no way Lighthouse Crossing could have saved me “thousands” even if all of my HVAC were free!
So let’s play to their strengths and assume I was too frugal and I should have cranked the heat and AC and spent the higher amount of money. If we believe we get the best of their savings – 80% – then we just squeak in over the “savings wire” by $28.
Unfortunately, geothermal does not achieve 80% savings. According to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, geothermal systems produce energy bills “30 percent to 40 percent lower”. So, at 40%, the savings would only be in the range of $734 to $1014 per year. If you are looking at modern construction, that high oil usage I reported would be much lower and thus the “savings” would be lower too.
So, should you install solar or geothermal. I say “yes” if you have the extra money. Do not think of it as a financial investment, but rather do it as an environmental investment.
If you don’t have the money for solar or geothermal, there’s still lots you can do – add insulation to your attic, in your walls if possible, wrap your hot water talk with an insulation blanket; insulate pipes on the crawl space if they are exposed, turn your AC two degrees higher and add a fan to circulate the air – there are lots of ways to save with small investments of time and some basic supplies.