The Properties and Purposes of a Geothermal Heat Pump

One of the great things about a geothermal heating and cooling system is that it has so few moving parts. There’s just that much less that can go wrong– that much less to keep up. And that alone goes far in slashing the overall energy costs of homeowners who’ve gone geothermal.

 

That said, there are some moving parts in the system. Most of them are found in its most vital component, too: the geothermal heat pump.

This is the system’s workhorse. Its job is to transfer heat. And it transfers heat either from the ground into your house or from your house into the ground, depending on the climate30. Thus, it’s a furnace and an air conditioner rolled into one compact package.

What, then, does a heat pump use to transfer heat? Water! Well, that or a solution containing antifreeze. This liquid circulates through pipe loops planted underground and attached to the heat pump, which is kept above ground. During heating season the liquid draws heat from the ground, the heat pump draws the warm liquid up into refrigerant coils, and from there the heat is distributed throughout a home by means of either a forced air or a hydronic system. During cooling season the process is reversed: the pump draws heat from your home and transfers it to the earth via those same buried loops. Oh, and somewhere in the process, various geothermal systems also produce domestic hot water.

The basic distinction between a geothermal heat pump and a standard furnace is that a heat pump doesn’t burn fuel to generate heat. Instead it takes heat that’s already present and just moves it around. That naturally makes it a much more efficient heating and cooling system. Bear this in mind, too: underground temperatures generally remain at around 50º F all year long. And that means? A geothermal heating and cooling system uses substantially less energy to cool your home than traditional air conditioners.

So … is a geothermal system the answer for your home? See this region’s geothermal gurus, the cordial gang at Geothermal North.