Michigan winters are usually cold and blustery, making home owners think twice about dialing up their thermostats to stay comfortable. What may stop them from turning their heat up are the associated energy costs, but with geothermal heating, they can stay warm and keep costs down.

A geothermal system works on a two-loop system, much like a heat pump, transferring heat from the earth into the structure in the winter. In the summer, the process reverses, gathering heat from the air and then sending it deep into the earth. Geothermal systems collect heat to distribute it through loops of liquid-filled pipe that act as a radiator from deep underground. If you’ve ever been to a deep cave, you know the air temperature remains at a fairly steady 50 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of the season. A geothermal system uses that temperature to heat or cool the air inside a home.

Although geothermal systems cost more initially than traditional furnaces and air conditioning units, their long-term savings can pay for themselves in a matter of a few short years. There are also energy incentives by providers, such as Consumers Energy and DTE, that can further offset the initial costs. Additionally, the U.S. government offers grants to both homeowners and businesses, so there are federal funds available to help make the initial startup expense easier to handle.

How much can a system cost? It depends, but some systems range between $15,000 and $20,000. Most of that money is on the installation. Digging deep into grounds can take more time and more money. And then there’s the question of knowing how much pipe the system needs to accommodate the home. For example, a 2,000 square foot structure may need up to 1,800 feet of pipe. Talk to a geothermal expert because the exact pipe length can vary based on the geographical area as well as the size of the structure and the heating and cooling needs.

Despite the expenses of a geothermal system installation, the energy savings and the overall energy costs are undeniable. Some statistics suggest that geothermal systems can save up to 70% on your heating and cooling bills. Furthermore, while the pumps themselves have a life expectancy of 10 years, the life cycle equivalent to a natural gas fueled furnace, the buried loops of the system can last more than 50 years, offering future homeowners a decided advantage when it comes time to sell.