How Geothermal Heating and Cooling Work

With so many renewable energy solutions becoming more mainstream, you may have heard about geothermal heating and cooling. Another term for geothermal heating and cooling is ground source heating and cooling. Basically, when you heat or cool with geothermal, you are heating or cooling with dirt.

Basic information

The ground under our feet is warmer than the outside air in the winter and cooler in the summer. The geothermal process does not create heat, rather the heat is transported through pipes to and from the house.

Details and components

  1. Earth connection/earth loop
  2. Small geothermal indoor heat pump
  3. Distribution system to circulate cool and warm air

Geothermal heating and cooling work with a heat pump inside the house and a ground loop consisting of underground pipes that connect to the heat pump. The underground pipes move water through the loop. During the times of the year when the cooling needs are highest, the Earth’s temperature is still fairly cool, permitting easy absorption of extra heat into the earth.

The earth’s temperature actually lags the outside temperature by several months, so that by the time the ground temperature has increased, the building’s total cooling requirement has been reduced.

Winter heating

In the winter, the water absorbs the heat from the ground and brings the heat back to the indoor heat pump. The heat is taken out of the water by the heat pump and then is distributed through the house as warm air. The cooled water then recirculates and repeats the circuit.

Summer air conditioning

For summer cooling, the heat pump unit inside the home collects the hot air from the house and removes the heat, leaving cool air to be distributed through the ductwork. The heat that has been taken out of the house is sent into the earth through the ground loop.

Key facts about geothermal heating and cooling:

  1. Supplementary hot water: free hot water is provided to the hot water system.
  2. During heating season, hot water is generated at the cost of space heating, often more cost effective than gas or electric water heating.
  3. The ground loop is buried between four and six feet below the earth’s surface.
  4. Geothermal systems are environmentally friendly.
  5. Fossil fuel is 78 to 98 percent efficient; geothermal is 400 percent efficient.
  6. Geothermal offers a more efficient option for heating and cooling.
  7. Geothermal systems emit no greenhouse gases.
  8. Geothermal systems are practically maintenance free, requiring only periodic checks and filter changes.
  9. There are different underground loop designs so that geothermal can be used on different types of land tracts.
    1. Horizontal loop
    2. Vertical loop
    3. Well water loop
    4. Pond loop
  10. Geothermal heat pumps use standard electronic thermostats and duct systems, so you can retrofit a structure.
  11. Geothermal heat pumps can be sized to heat and cool any building.
  12. Residential energy use is cut in half by using a geothermal heat pump.
  13. The hot water produced by the system can also be used for hot tubs, swimming pools or floor heating.





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