URBANA, Ill., (WCIA) — Some people in Central Illinois are changing how they heat and cool their homes, and they’re using geothermal energy to do it. 

It’s part of the Geothermal Urbana-Champaign 2.0 bulk purchase program and it’s the first of its kind in the country. 

First, people have to take a “Power Hour” class, then, the City of Urbana gathers quotes from vendors. Scott Tess, Urbana’s Sustainability & Resilience Officer, said the more people who sign contracts, the cheaper it becomes. 

“Geothermal heating and cooling systems provide all of the heat and cooling for a house,” Tess said. 

The science behind geothermal systems is different than natural gas systems. 

“In the summer, it takes heat out of the house and dumps it in the ground. In the winter, it takes energy out of the ground and pushes it into your house,” Tess added. 

Crews started drilling four wells and installing 250-foot pipes in Adam Nichols’ yard on Tuesday. 

A plastic closed loop goes into the ground and connects to a heat exchanger in the basement. 

Nichols said it’s in an effort to save money and help the environment after he decided to stop using fossil fuels and pouring money into fixing his AC unit. 

“We looked at the different options, and geothermal looked like one of the most efficient,” Nichols said. 

He said they had to re-run ductwork throughout the entire home and he’ll probably never break even, but said it’s worth it because he feels this will help save money year by year. 

Jim Hall with Design-Air Heating and Air Conditioning said that that’s a common feeling. 

“Most of the people in this year’s program are motivated by a little bit of economics, but an awful lot of environmental concern,” Hall said. 

He said this is the program’s second year and they plan to keep it going. Hall added there’s a 30% tax credit for another 10 years and he hopes that it helps them invest in new drilling technology. 

In the last 35 years, Hall said they’ve installed hundreds of geothermal systems in Champaign-Urbana and they want more people to continue converting from natural gas to all-electric. They’re working on creating a second program in Northwestern Illinois.