BUFORD — When Paula and Fred Ferguson needed a new air conditioning system, finding an energy-efficient one was a top priority.
So when Fred Ferguson’s research brought him to a geothermal heating and air system, he decided that for him and his wife, there was “no doubt (it) was the most efficient thing out there.”
While a normal air conditioning unit uses the outside air to cool or heat a home, a geothermal system uses the earth, explained Jeff Bolton of J.R. Bolton Services Inc.
A regular air conditioning unit must work against the current outside temperature, he said. But a geothermal system relies on the ground temperature, which usually stays at a cool 57 degrees.
“During winter heating season, a geothermal heat pump uses our natural earth to extract free heat from underground,” he said. “In summer cooling mode, this process is reversed. Instead of extracting heat from underground, heat is extracted from inside your home and rejected back into the earth.”
Bolton’s company, an air conditioning and heating service contractor in Buford, installed the Ferguson’s geothermal system, which involved drilling three wells, measuring 6 inches wide and 2 to 300 feet deep, into their backyard.
Geothermal systems have been around since the late 1940s, but their popularity has only recently grown after both Georgia and the federal government began offering tax credit incentives, Bolton said.
Georgia is currently offering a $2,000 credit for those who install the system, and the federal government is offering a 30 percent tax credit with no cap.
This factor helped the Fergusons choose the expensive system, which on average costs somewhere in the $20,000 range, according to Bolton.
And while they have not yet received a full electricity bill with the system in use — it was installed in August — Ferguson said he anticipates saving almost $2,000 on heat this winter.
The system has been heralded by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of the most efficient heating and cooling systems, and its biggest benefit, the department said, is “that (it) use(s) 25 to 50 percent less electricity than conventional heating or cooling systems.”
This, Bolton said, can deliver energy savings of up to 70 percent compared to regular heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
The Fergusons also had some repairs made to their duct system, which was allowing about 20 to 25 percent of air to escape.
With these repairs and their new geothermal system, surviving the summer months have gotten a lot better for the first time in the 21 years the Fergusons have lived in their home.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had any air coming out of our upstairs bedroom and our bathroom,” said Paula Ferguson. “It’s phenomenal.”