If you ask someone what “green” energy options they know about or are considering installing in their own home, most will list solar panels right off the bat. But solar is not the only green energy option out there. Geothermal systems also provide energy savings and reduced footprint. So which one is right for you?

Comparing Green Energy Options: Solar and Geothermal

First some quick definitions: As the names imply, solar energy comes from the sun, while geothermal energy comes from the earth. Both are considered green energy because they channel existing heat sources to warm (or cool) our homes. When we talk about using solar energy from homes, we mean installing solar panels on your roof in order to capture energy from the sun. When we talk about using geothermal energy, we mean digging into the ground beneath your home to access heat from the earth.

green energy options colorado solar geothermal
There are big advantages to both systems, and some drawbacks too. But with either system, a big advantage is no longer being at the mercy of fluctuating gas prices.

Geothermal Facts

  • You can only use geo when it is 28 degrees or warmer (though luckily this is most days in Colorado!), so you will need a backup heat option. Often this backup can just be your existing furnace or boiler.
  • Geothermal systems can almost completely reduce your reliance on the grid because they heat AND cool your home.
  • If you want to reduce your footprint and save money but aren’t willing to dig up your yard, a heat pump is another good alternative to a full geothermal system.
  • Since the price of gas is low right now, choosing geothermal is really about reducing your carbon footprint more than savings unless you currently use propane. Homeowners relying on propane  see very substantial savings when they switch to geothermal (some of our customers in the mountains were paying $2000-3000 per month for their propane bills!).
  • Though geothermal installation requires more effort than solar panel installation up front, there is usually less maintenance associated with geothermal because the system is protected underground.

Solar Facts

  • There are two kinds of solar energy systems. Photovoltaics, which provide electricity, and solar heating, which can heat your home and your water.  The rebates mentioned below are for electric solar only.
  • Solar panel installation is easier than geothermal installation since geothermal systems require digging into the ground.
  • The Xcel rebates for electric solar are very good (better than the rebates for geothermal). The initial investment for both is about the same.
  • Many solar panel set ups require that some of the energy collected goes back to Xcel to be redistributed.
  • When solar panels get dirty, their effectiveness lessens significantly.
  • One of the reasons solar heating is not good for heat backup on Geo is because it tends to be cloudy when the temps are really low.

If you have any questions about the right green energy option for you, please give Dan a call at 720.876.7166 or email him at dan@sensibleheat.net.