BOULDER, Colo. — While the use of geothermal heat pumps and other forms of direct-use geothermal applications make up a small percentage of the overall heating and cooling market, growing electricity demand, rising energy prices, and increasing regulation around carbon emissions and energy efficiency are expected to push demand higher over the next several years, notes Pike Research. Used on their own, geothermal heat pumps are capable of producing large reductions in energy use and peak demand in buildings. Used in conjunction with energy management, geothermal heat pumps can provide significantly increased benefits.

According to a report from Pike Research, geothermal heat pump sales will experience strong growth rates in the next several years, with annual unit shipments in the United States increasing from just fewer than 150,000 in 2011 to more than 326,000 units by 2017. The use of geothermal heat pumps integrated with energy management systems will give homeowners and companies powerful new capabilities for adapting electricity loads in response to peak heating and cooling periods and for reducing energy costs.

“Direct-use geothermal applications, including geothermal heat pumps, face unique obstacles — primarily high installation costs,” said senior analyst Mackinnon Lawrence. “But increased retrofit activity, a rebound in construction, and growing interest in the commercial and institutional sectors will drive strong growth through 2017 for geothermal heat pumps.”

While cost and lack of consumer awareness remain primary obstacles to increased adoption, tax incentives and policies supporting building efficiency improvements will help overcome those barriers. Pike Research anticipates substantial growth in the 2011-2017 timeframe, with the total worldwide capacity for geothermal direct-use applications increasing by 179 percent during that period.

Publication date: 12/05/2011