An equipment maker says communities a would be smart to use part of the money  from the economic stimulus package to invest in geothermal technology.

States, communities and homeowners would be smart to use part of the money they’re expected to receive from the $787 billion economic stimulus package to invest in geothermal technology.

That’s the recommendation from officials with WaterFurnace Renewable Energy Inc., a manufacturer of geothermal HVAC systems and water-source heat pumps in Indiana.

Supporters say the stimulus package, signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama, will create more than 3 million jobs along with targeted tax cuts and investments. About $7 billion will be given to state and local governments to improve energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions.

“This could amount to as much as $100 million in the state of Indiana,” said WaterFurnace Chief Executive Officer Bruce Ritchey.

“By investing a portion of this $100 million in rebates or low-interest loans to homeowners who replace their old fossil fuel or straight electric furnaces with geothermal heat pumps, the country would definitely make progress toward the goals of the stimulus package.”

“Indiana and other states in the country that have invested in similar programs were able to create hundreds of ‘green-collar jobs’ while significantly increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions,” Ritchey said. 

Ritchey said a $2,000 rebate on the purchase of a geothermal heat pump or a low-interest loan could generate 200 heat pump sales every month in Indiana, and up to 2,400 unit sales at the end of the first year of the program.

“At the same time, we can create one new job for every 18 heat pump installations,” he added. “By the end of the first year that means we will have created, potentially, 133 new green-collar jobs. At $2,000 per unit, the total cost of a job creation/energy-efficiency rebate program in the state of Indiana would be $4.8 million over the course of a year.”

The success of such a program could be applied nationally, Ritchey said.

“Every state should take at least five percent of the funding available through the energy-efficiency portion of the stimulus package and invest it in a geothermal incentive,” he said. “I can’t think of a faster, more cost effective, greener way to put people back to work, save fossil fuel, reduce carbon emissions and save homeowners thousands of dollars per year for the next 24 years. It’s the stimulus that keeps on stimulating.”

Such incentives could help other geothermal manufacturers, Ritchey noted.

Besides WaterFurnace, other geothermal equipment makers operate in Ohio, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida and New York.