Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Geothermal heating and cooling systems transfer the warmth (or cold) from the ground below to the home or building above, providing a completely renewable, ecologically friendly source of home climate control. Earth itself is a natural heat source, with year-round temperatures of fifty-five to seventy degrees Fahrenheit just below the surface.

The most commonly installed geothermal system is a closed loop configuration. Loops of pipe, which are eventually filled with water or anti-freeze, are buried at least six feet underground. The pipes may be positioned either horizontally or vertically, depending upon available space. Transfer fluid (either the water or anti-freeze) is circulated through a ground source heat pump, and then back throughout the loops. These loops serve as the heat source in the winter; while in the loops underground, the transfer fluid absorbs the heat of the earth, and is then pumped back through the home where the absorbed heat is extracted, modified, and dispersed. The same loops serve as a heat sink in the summer; the hot air is extracted from the home and discharged into the earth below via the loop system.

To understand how geothermal heating and cooling works, we must first understand the ground source heat pump that drives the system. Even air that naturally exists in the earth at fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit, though perhaps warmer than the air temperature above ground, is not warm enough to heat a typical home. This is where the ground source heat pump comes in. To begin the full cycle, a refrigerant (like Freon) flows through a heat exchanger (in the heat pump), and absorbs the heat from the transfer fluid that has just passed through the ground loops.

As this refrigerant absorbs heat, it changes from a liquid to a gas. A compressor pressurizes the gas, which increases its temperature to nearly two hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The hot gas is then passed through another heat exchanger where the heat, now at a temperature around one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, is actually extracted and pumped into the home. As the gas in the heat exchanger loses heat, it converts back to the liquid refrigerant, and the cycle repeats. The same system cools the home in the summer by reversing the process completed by the heat pump, which expels the compressed, cooled air, instead of the heated air, into the home.

Owning one system that provides both heating and cooling for a home or business is one of many benefits that geothermal heating and cooling offers. Geothermal systems are one of the most energy and cost-efficient heating and cooling systems available today. Not only do they use twenty-five to fifty percent less electricity than conventional systems, but they are very quiet, dependable, and safe.

Energy from the geothermal system can even be routed to a hot water tank, providing no-cost hot water in summer, and very low-cost hot water in winter. A homeowner can expect to reduce monthly bills by forty to seventy dollars per month, meaning that the initial expense of installing a geothermal system will be reimbursed in roughly three to seven years. Even more appealing, geothermal systems can be retrofitted into existing homes with forced air systems, and will use the very same ductwork. Some mortgage companies recognize the benefits of energy efficient heating and cooling systems, and have loan programs available at affordable rates that will finance the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system.

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Related links:

Types of heat pumps

Air Source Heat Pumps

How to combine heating and air conditioning

How Do Geothermal Heating Systems Work?

What Is Geothermal Heat?

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