The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

More than a few residents here in , Wisconsin, have sought Geothermal North to make their homes geothermal homes. Still need convincing about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – may help.

We’ve described elsewhere the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that almost no other manner of maintaining apleasant home environment all year long are as efficient, dependable, or affordable, especially when you size up the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works its magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We tap the earth for precious metals. We tap the earth for oil. Now, to an unprecedented degree, we’re tapping the earth for something likely just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t involve oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a stratum of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten blend, primarily of silicates, in which temperatures run from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter the deeper you go (not that you’d want to go there!). What this does is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a relatively stable year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So? Underground temperatures in (and pretty much everywhere stateside, anyway) are warmer than the ambient air above ground in Winter and cooler than the ambient air above ground in Summer.

Time to Get Pumped!

This, then, is what geothermal heating and cooling systems do: they transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, as the season dictates. Either way, your home environment stays at the ideal temperature to keep you and your family comfy in every season.

The device that accomplishes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (commonly antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (commonly fashioned of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) installed in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it courses through the loops, it assimilates heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid is brought into the loops, where it takes in the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Looking for details? You’ll find more comprehensive information on ground loops here.

The key point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They’re not like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by putting to use the energy already amply available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems are not only quieter but also a lot more trustworthy, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, ultimately, you’ll save appreciably more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Geothermal North, your geothermal heating and cooling authority, today.