Why Go Geothermal?

” I have no hidden agenda, I am fighting for my future. Loosing your future is not like loosing an election or a few points on a stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come ”                                                                                                                             Severn Suzuki – 12 years old, Rio 1992

“Regulations on the oil and gas industry now would be crazy, we are clearly not going to do that ”                                                                                                                                       – Stephen Harper, Dec 2014.

Decisions pitting short term economics against nature are foolish on every level, from global to national to municipal to personal. We need to sensibly evaluate how we treat the environment with our financial decisions. The homes we buy and live in are our personal biggest source of carbon emissions.

Natural gas ( methane ) is presented as the only real option for heating in Alberta. Misleadingly advertised as “cheap and clean “, “Cheap” only pertains to the price you pay for the stuff you burn in your furnace, and “Clean” only pertains to the co2 produced by your furnace, compared to burning coal or diesel.

If natural gas was the price of gasoline, the average annual home heating bill would be multiplied by thirteen. If we heated our homes with electricity instead of gas, our annual electricity bill would only double, ( then deduct entire gas bill ) but the emissions from our home would be cut almost to half.

Natural gas has a small monetary price tag, but it comes at a very high environmental cost.

Most of it today is produced by “fracking” shallow shale deposits. Consequences for air, water, animal and human health abound from this process. Many wells require constant flaring, all wells consume an enormous amount of fresh water and require disposal of large amounts of toxic produced water. 86 times more volatile than co2, Raw methane is carelessly released into the atmosphere during and after production, from venting, leaky wells and pipeline infrastructure, but none of this stuff calculated into the price. Markets prices for resources are set at the extraction cost, not considering clean up or environmental cost. Market prices don’t reflect externalized costs such as ecocide and healthcare burden.

Banned in some countries and American states, “fracking“ is a big industry in Alberta, which produces 67% of Canada’s gas, but consumes fully half of it, exports the rest. Besides exports, natural gas vendors hold almost 100% of the home & commercial heat market share. Alternatives hold less than 1%.

The revenue stream from gas delivery is huge, perhaps greater than the production and sale of the gas itself.

Individuals can do things differently. People can dramatically reduce their family’s carbon footprint AND save money for the rest of their lives by doing it.

Heating our homes with natural gas is equivalent to burning two hundred and sixty 20 lb BBQ bottles of LPG per winter, or 3,870 liters of gasoline. Then there’s the electricity we use for cooling, lights, appliances, etc. Our homes emit five to eight times more co2 annually, than our family cars.

Some provinces use electricity as the primary source of home heating, the average home in other parts of Canada that use electric heating and cooling use 60 GJ of electricity annually, this figure can be reduced to 30 GJ with the installation of a vertical geothermal system.

The average Alberta home uses 129 GJ of natural gas and 29 GJ of electricity, some of it used for cooling. A geothermal system can remove the 129 GJ of natural gas consumption and provide annual heating and cooling using just 6 GJ of electricity. 180 liters gasoline equivalent, as opposed to 3,870 liters.

A properly installed vertical geothermal system is the most effective first step we can take to remove the carbon footprint of heating and cooling our homes and commercial spaces. A home with a properly installed vertical geothermal system has similar electrical consumption to home with gas heating and air conditioning.

By transferring heat from the natural temperature deep in the earth, and using the earth as a very efficient heat sink for cooling, a geothermal system requires very little energy to perform the task of providing year round home comfort. In terms of quantity, a geothermal system with a vertically installed earth loop will use between 1,200 – 1800 kwh  for the whole YEAR, to heat and cool the average home in southern Alberta. A geothermal system provides cooling for a fraction of the energy required by conventional air conditioning.

Dollar for dollar, a geothermal system installation is five times more effective reducing co2 emissions than installing solar panels.

Solar panels are great, but in terms of reduction…..

The installed price of a geothermal system is between $ 10. – 13.00 per sq ft of house. The installed price of solar panels is between $ 4. – 7.00 per watt. A 2 kw solar system will produce between 1,400 – 1,700 Kwh in a year. This is about 10 – 13 % of the average southern Alberta household consumption, and no realistic capacity for heating and cooling…….unless you have a geothermal system, then you would see some serious carbon footprint reduction. Removing emissions from heating and cooling completely.

The difference financially between Geothermal and Gas heating is like the difference between a zero interest mortgage, and rent.

Why go geothermal ? – It increases the asset value of your home by more than the installation cost, greatly reduces the energy consumption and cost to heat and cool your home, and greatly reduces your carbon footprint.

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