Geothermal systems may not be appropropriate for every homeowner

As with any purchase, homeowners who are considering energy upgrades to their home must always conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis before coming to a final purchasing decision. Some home energy efficiency products are cheaper than others and some provide much more bang for a homeowner's buck. That being said, not all improvements are wise for all homeowners, given different weather patterns throughout the country.

Geothermal temperature moderation systems could be one of these upgrades, which one homeowner in Virginia was fortunate to find out before she installed such a device. Arlington homeowner Mary McCutcheon has been chronicling her home demolition project for The Washington Post and her newest entry into the series included a discussion on how she plans to make the teardown, and subsequent rebuild, as energy-efficient as possible.

She had wanted install a geothermal system in her new home, but was dissuaded by a home energy expert after he told her it could cost up to $70,000 to install the elaborate underground network of pipes and tubes. He also warned McCutcheon that new homes, which are typically much more airtight than existing homes, can experience moisture problems related to geothermal systems.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal pumps are used by homeowners to moderate the temperature of their homes by taking advantage of the relatively stable temperature just below the earth's surface, which rarely strays far from the 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit range. On the hottest summer days, the ground will remain cool, while the opposite is true during the winter months.

Homeowners like McCutcheon are generally attracted to these systems because of the nearly nonexistent costs of maintaining a comfortable home living environment, especially relative to the costs of even the most energy-efficient heating and insulation. Cheaper and more efficient energy upgrades may be available to homeowners in the Tri-State area, but they should first discuss their options with a Washington, D.C. home inspector.