mailmanThe constant temperature of the earth we live on is a sustainable resource that, when tapped with heat pump technology, can be used to supply comfort in our homes winter and summer and, at the same time, support New York State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 (from 1990 levels).

Recently Lansing's representative to the County Legislature, Mike Sigler, suggested that NYSEG's moratorium on new gas installations might be expanded from Lansing alone to the whole county. That’s an exciting idea! It’s consistent with the County's carbon emission reduction goals and challenges us to think creatively about alternative heating and cooling.

The initial cost of geothermal heat pump systems has been a barrier to widespread adoption. In a proposal that will put New York at the forefront of support for renewable energy use, Governor Cuomo earlier this month proposed a two-year, $15 million rebate program for the installation of ground-source heat pumps. It awaits approval from the legislature. If approved it would provide about $6,000 for an average residential geothermal installation. No other state provides such strong support to encourage leaving fossil fuels in the ground and move to sustainable renewable energy sources.

The barriers to widespread adoption of geothermal heat pumps are ebbing. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) have concluded that geothermal heat pumps are the most environmentally friendly and cost-efficient way to heat and cool your home. With 50,000 to 80,000 geothermal heat pump installations per year in the US alone, homeowners are beginning to learn more about these energy saving systems.

Once installed, geothermal systems perform reliably for many years. They are environmentally beneficial, replacing onsite fossil fuels. They require local labor for the installation, thus helping the local economy. Because they are 300% efficient, they use very little electricity. They provide not only heat in winter, but with a flip of the switch, cool your home in summer. All this buried treasure right under our feet!

There are many examples of geothermal systems at work in Tompkins County. The town halls in Dryden and Caroline are but two examples. The locally, volunteer-run, Heat Smart program will soon be sponsoring tours such that anyone can go visit a home where the owners have installed heat pumps, and talk about their experiences. The schedule for the home tours is posted at

Stephen Emlen
Town of Lansing, NY