Geothermal: A Quiet, Clean and Quite Energy-Efficient System
Geothermal systems are clean, quiet, and a very energy efficient way to heat and cool your home.
Most air conditioning and heat pump units transfer heat and cooling between your home and the outside air. Here in Ohio, the temperature of the air reaches extremes over the course of a year, which makes traditional systems push heat into already hot summer air and extract heat from the already cold winter air.
Underneath your home, however, not very far down, the ground has a stable, constant temperature of about 50 degrees. Geothermal heat pumps take advantage of that stability, using the coolness of the earth to cool your home in summer and the relatively warmer ground to heat your home in winter. That can make a real difference in the energy it takes to keep your home comfortable. Some studies have shown that the energy used by a geothermal system is less than half the energy required for a traditional system.
To take advantage of this stable ground temperature, the geothermal system uses a piping system buried in your yard to collect heat in the summer and disburse heat in the summer.
For both heating and cooling, the only energy requirement is electricity – the cleanest available source of energy for the single-family home. No oil, no natural gas, no LPG, and no propane.
Basic Facts About Geothermal Systems
In the effort to reduce home energy costs, homeowners often consider ways to make their existing system work more efficiently. One way to do this is to take a slightly different approach with geothermal heating and cooling. Geothermal systems have been around for many years but have gained in popularity in recent decades thanks to the high cost of energy usage. Approximately 50,000 geothermal systems are installed every year in the United States.
How It Works
Geothermal systems take advantage of the fact that the temperature of the ground a few feet down is relatively uniform across the country. Concisely, geothermal technology uses the temperature of the earth to provide warmth in the wintertime and cool air in the summer.
Instead of using coils that transfer heat either to or from the air (as with a conventional air-to-air heat pump), a geothermal system relies on a long fluid-filled pipe buried either horizontally or vertically in the yard. Piping is laid in the ground (or a nearby water source), and a refrigerant liquid is pumped through the pipes. The fluid in this line carries out the heat transfer process. It then loops back to a heat pump in the home. In the wintertime, the warmer ground temperature heats the liquid which then runs through the pipes into the house. In the summertime, the process reverses.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), geothermal systems are the most efficient ones on the market today. The use of geothermal heat saves up to 40 percent over standard heat pumps and up to 70 percent over other systems.
Geothermal systems are one of the most environmentally friendly ways to provide conditioned air for your home since it produces no byproducts and uses far less electricity than a conventional heat pump. The reduction in electricity use also means the system gives the house a smaller carbon footprint.
Reduced Energy Demand
There are more than 750,000 geothermal systems installed across the United States. These systems have reduced electrical usage by almost 6 billion kWh, or the equivalent of more than 30 billion BTUs.
Geothermal Heating and Air Conditioning Benefits
Often the simplest ideas are the ones many people find hardest to accept. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors lived in caves. Surrounded by earth, they stayed warm in winter and comfortably cool in summer. Today, we’ve learned to take advantage of the heat and cool from the ground. Geothermal heating and cooling is one way to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature without using fossil fuels and spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If you’re a Cleveland-area homeowner who is ready to upgrade your heating and cooling, there are many advantages to having a geothermal system.
These units use no outside condensers. There’s no humming and no vibration for you or your neighbors to hear. A traditional system transfers heat inside your home to and from the outdoor air. That requires a loud fan system to blow air across coils. Since the geothermal system transfers heat using a liquid, not air, it does not need fans, and the result is a much quieter unit.
Geothermal heating and cooling provides even temperatures and humidity throughout the home.
The loops buried in the ground can last 25 to 50 years or more. The equipment above ground has few moving parts, is well-sheltered from debris and the elements, and is designed to last at least 20 years.
The underground pipes are virtually free of maintenance. The components in the home are easily accessible for service and require easy service calls.
A geothermal heating and air conditioning system saves between 25 and 50 percent on electrical usage. A typical system only requires one unit of electricity to produce three units of heating or cooling.
Hot water assist
Advances in the technology have transferred to heating your home’s hot water as well, creating even more savings.
The equipment in your home takes up less space than other, more conventional types.
Most homeowners agree that the idea of saving the earth while saving money is an excellent trade-off.
Better Humidity Control
Geothermal heating and air conditioning keeps indoor humidity levels around 50 percent. This creates better comfort and lessens the chance of mold growth.
Reduced Heating and Cooling Costs
Most homeowners will see the monetary savings as one of the best benefits of using geothermal heating and cooling over traditional fossil fuels. The Environmental Protection Agency labeled geothermal energy as the most energy-efficient option. Savings vary depending upon location and ground structure, but Energy.gov lists average savings of 25 to 50 percent over electricity-based HVAC systems. And by harnessing the geothermal energy emanating from the ground, your monthly utility/energy bills from the power company will shrink significantly.
The lack of flammable fuels reduces the risk of fire and poisonous gases, like carbon monoxide, getting into your home.
The technology is an option for homes just about anywhere as the temperature underground is mostly uniform across the US.
There’s quite a list of benefits to geothermal system. Even small lot sizes can often accommodate the pipes used for these systems. They can also use ponds or below-ground water sources to tap into the earth’s energy.
Geothermal Installation: Some Options and Advice
At the heart of your geothermal system are several loops of piping, which serve as a conduit to remove and dissipate hot air and humidity from your home in summer. In winter, the ground’s natural heat is absorbed through the piping and sent into your home comfort system. There are several options for the installation of the pipeline for geothermal heat pumps as described on Energy Savers.
Horizontal: Often the most cost-effective option for new construction and homes with enough land available. A sealed loop of piping is installed in 3 to 6 feet deep trenches.
Vertical: Where the soil is too shallow for trenching and there is sufficient space, the piping can be inserted by a drilling rig into small ground-holes up to 400 feet deep.
Pond: A nearby basin can be used to house the piping loop below the water.
Open loop: Well water can be used directly by the system instead of a sealed piping loop as used in the other installations. The water will circulate into the heat pump system and back into the ground through the well.
Your local HVAC contractor can help you select the best, most cost-effective installation for your property and estimate the amount of utility savings you can expect.
If you’re considering an upgrade, contact us at Stack Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric. We can answer any questions you have about this beneficial energy source for your home comfort. We’re always happy to answer your questions. Call us for more information.