Don’t forget about geothermal

bret curry

Bret Curry is the residential energy
manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative

Survey says, electric cooperative members nationwide enjoy the monthly magazine published by their statewide associations, including here in Arkansas where we produce Arkansas Living. Each year, random electric co-op members are chosen to participate in a readership survey encompassing many categories, including overall satisfaction, demographic information, broadband access, consumer electronics, travel, conventional and Internet purchases, renewable energy and home improvements, including energy efficiency retrofits.

This year, results revealed that more than 80 percent of magazine recipients read this publication from cover-to-cover. The results also revealed that many readers made some kind of energy efficiency upgrade to their homes in the past year, including switching to LEDs or CFLs, replacing return-air filters, caulking, air sealing and replacing older appliances with Energy Star models. Nearly 70 percent have taken some form of action as a result of something they read in this magazine. That is an amazing statistic.

Furthermore, a very small percentage of readers indicated they had some form of residential solar panels already installed at their residences. Also, a few respondents expressed an interest in or intent to install solar panels in 2016. It’s not surprising that there is interest when you consider the tremendous amount of advertising dollars being invested nationwide in an effort to sell solar energy. Whether it’s print, television or radio, we regularly see and hear the recurring multifaceted messages trying to convince consumers to buy solar panels.

That advertising messaging is sparking an interest among residential electric consumers. I, along with local co-op member services representatives and energy advisors, regularly receive inquiries about solar feasibility, including return on investment, living off the grid and what is the better investment — geothermal heating and cooling, or solar?

I’ll be the first to admit I’d like to install some residential solar panels at my home. Yet, the cost per kilowatt of power for residential installations is more than I care to spend — for now. Prices for solar installations will most likely continue to fall over time. But for now, my personal and informed choice is a geothermal heating and cooling system.


Geothermal systems use earth’s temperature to heat and cool homes.

Here’s why. Geothermal systems require a significantly low amount of energy for operation. While they cost more for initial installation, the operation cost is lower than natural gas, propane, air-to-air heat pumps and electric-resistance furnaces. Geothermal units are designed for longevity, provide year-round optimal comfort and do not require thermostat adjustments. There is no outdoor equipment to produce noise while entertaining guests on the patio or outside the bedroom window while trying to sleep. Units require very little maintenance, and 100 percent of the total installation cost qualifies for a federal tax credit. (Note: America’s electric cooperatives’ grassroots advocates are currently working with lawmakers to extend the federal tax credit expiration date. We’ll keep you informed of progress.) Plus, geothermal units work to keep you cozy on cloudy days, when it’s snowing and at nighttime.

So, when you are looking at options for saving energy, don’t forget about geothermal. It’s a great way to be green! And always feel free to contact me at with any energy efficiency questions. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook at, as well as listen to our podcasts.