Jan Mostrum of Evanston, though, isn't as pleased. She and her husband, Terry, tore down their house and built a new, 4,200-square-foot house with a geothermal system.
The good news, says Mostrum, is the system eliminated the placement of a noisy and unsightly compressor on the side of their house, which would have been close to the neighbor's house. The bad news, though, is that this year's Commonwealth Edison price increase sent their electric bill through the roof.
"We pay $650 to $750 a month for our electric bill now, not counting a gas bill of $50 to $150 for our dryer, stove, oven and fireplace starters," says Mostrum. "At this point, it will take us 17 years to recoup the money."
Geothermal systems seem to making more inroads into the multi-family than single-family market here.
Chicago-based Dynaprop Development Corp. is using a geothermal system to heat and cool its upcoming Eco18 project in the South Loop. The building will include one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums, plus commercial space. In addition to its geothermal system, Eco18 will use solar panels to heat water and include water-saving amenities such as low-flow showerheads and dual-flush toilets. Part of the building will have a green roof.
The additional cost of using a geothermal system, says Dynaprop president Rick Turner, will be built in to the sales price of the units. But, he adds, the owners should see lower electrical bills.
Geothermal was one of the selling points for Carrie and Brian Mattei, who bought a townhouse at Church Street Village in Evanston. She is an environmental engineer and he is an architect, so geothermal systems are familiar to them.
The $367,000 price tag of the Matteis'three-bedroom townhouse beat those of its competitors, says Carrie, so lower electrical bills generated by the geothermal system will be a bonus.
"This is attracting educated buyers who want green features," says Walter Kihm, CEO of Cyrus Homes, of the Church Street Village homeowners.
Homeowners with geothermal systems urge others considering them to find knowledgeable installers because not every HVAC contractor understands these systems. To find an installer who is trained and certified, contact the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association at Oklahoma State University (see sidebar).
"If your HVAC contractor says, 'Oh, sure, I can do this,' that's not good enough," says Bell. "He may not understand it or may not have done it before."
- - -
For more information about geothermal systems, visit these Web sites:
http://www.igshpa.okstate.edu . International Ground Source Heat Pump Association
http://www.geoexchange.org . Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium
http://www.resnet.us . Residential Energy Service Network