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Illinois Country Living

John Freitag

John Freitag, the Vice President of Operations for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.


Harvesting Earth’s Geothermal Energy
Nothing beats the investment in geothermal heat pumps

Regular readers of Illinois Country Living know that electric cooperatives talk a lot about geothermal heat pumps. We have been promoting geothermal systems since the 1980s.

Geothermal is simply the VERY BEST, cleanest, most efficient, environmentally-friendly heating and cooling technology available today. That assessment isn’t ours - it comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In other words, geothermal is green technology at its best.

How does it work? Geothermal systems get 350 to 400 percent efficiency by using the earth’s natural energy, utilizing the heat from the earth for heating in the winter. Heat is usually transferred from the earth by fluid circulated through loops installed below ground. Then the heat is multiplied through a refrigeration process in the heat pump, and circulated through a forced air system. There’s no combustion, no flame, no fuel. In the summer, the process reverses for cooling. Because the process uses the earth’s natural energy, geothermal gets a great efficiency advantage compared to 75 to 100 percent efficiency for conventional heating and cooling equipment.

Think of the geothermal/conventional comparison this way. Contrast the mileage of an eight-cylinder sport utility truck, getting 10-15 miles-per-gallon, to a modern hybrid car getting 45-50 miles to the gallon of gas. There’s simply no comparison in efficiency.

I’ve had a geothermal system in my 50-year-old home for nearly 10 years. My wife, Joan, and I can tell you first-hand that installing geothermal in your home or business should be a no-brainer decision. Our geothermal system has paid for itself many times over in outstanding energy savings during the heating and cooling seasons.

The Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ Springfield office is also heated and cooled with a geothermal system. So I literally spend most of my waking hours every day staying comfortable because of geothermal heating and cooling!

If you’re planning to build a new home or business in the near future, please consider a geothermal system. If you’re considering the replacement of an old gas furnace or central air system, consider geothermal. Either way, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor for years to come.

Geothermal costs more to install up front, but you’ll have a positive cash flow from day one because of your lower operating costs. Energy costs are typically less than half with geothermal compared to traditional systems. Most people find the additional cost of borrowing is more than covered by the energy savings from the more efficient system.

So, the geothermal system is one of those few investments you can make that will pay you back over and over again for years to come.

The Illinois electric co-ops believe so strongly in geothermal heating and cooling that they’ve taken a leadership role in forming a new statewide organization - the Geothermal Alliance of Illinois (GAI). The goal of this new organization is to advance the usage of geothermal technology and to help better educate and train all those involved in the geothermal heat pump industry. This includes dealers, installers, designers, engineers and others.

Above all, GAI wants to be THE SOURCE of good information and advice for consumers. Only those dealers that have been trained and passed a GAI-sponsored examination will be members of the organization. What this means for you, the consumer, is that by finding a certified dealer through GAI, you can assure yourself of the highest standards in the industry.

We urge you to visit the GAI Web site at At the site you can find contacts with folks who will help you locate a dealer or make contact with key people in the industry, and learn more about geothermal heating and cooling. You’ll also be able to learn more about incentives for installing geothermal, like the $2,000 federal income tax credit that goes into effect Jan.1, 2009.

So, you want to really go green in the year ahead? Consider geothermal.


John Freitag is the Vice President of Operations for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. He also serves as the secretary-treasurer for the newly formed Geothermal Alliance of Illinois.

The opinions and views of guest commentators are their own and may not represent those of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives or the electric co-ops of Illinois.

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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