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How Does a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System Work?

Geothermal HVAC systems are becoming more and more popular across the country as homeowners look for more energy efficient options and solutions to lower the household’s environmental footprint. You may have heard of this type of system but may still have questions about how geothermal heating and cooling systems work? Energy Savers’ geothermal HVAC team explains what you need to know.

Parts of a Geothermal System

Before we get into how geothermal heating and cooling works, we need to discuss the different components that make up these systems. If you own a furnace and air conditioner, the equipment is quite different than what you are used to. Key components include:

Geothermal Loop

The geothermal loop (also referred to as a ground loop or earth loop) is a network of buried piping. The loop can be installed horizontally, coiled, or vertically on the property and be configured as open or closed. An open loop uses a well or nearby body of water as a heat source and heat sink, and water from this source to conduct heat transfer. A closed loop holds its own fluid inside the pipes for heat transfer, which is typically a water and antifreeze mixture.

Geothermal Heat Pump

The geothermal heat pump houses the compressor, heat exchanger, and other key system components. The heat pump moves fluid through the ground loop to exchange heat between indoor air and the ground or water source.

Distribution System

To distribute conditioned air throughout the homes, geothermal systems may be configured as forced air, or water to water. A forced air system uses an air handler and ductwork to move air throughout the home. In a water-to-water system, piping runs through walls and floors in the home, or baseboard units are installed. Fluid moves through this equipment to transfer heat.

How Does Geothermal Heating and Cooling Work?

Geothermal heating and cooling systems work much differently than how a traditional furnace heats. A furnace burns fuel to create heat, whereas a geothermal heat pump exchanges heat between the ground or water source and the air to heat the home. Because the temperature below ground stays constant around 50 to 60 degrees year-round, it can be used as a heat source. The fluid within the ground loop absorbs the heat from the Earth, then cycles it to the heat pump where its heat exchanger transfers the heat from the fluid to the air.

The geothermal cooling process is very similar to the way an air conditioner or air-source heat pump works. Heat is absorbed from the air inside the home and moved away. While air conditioners and air-source heat pumps release heat into the air outside, a geothermal heat pump uses the ground as its heat sink. It releases heat underground or into a body of water, depending on the loop configuration.

Benefits of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Now that you understand how geothermal heating and cooling works, let’s take a look at why this system is preferable versus other HVAC options.

  • Lower operating costs – These systems do not burn fuel and deliver electricity utilization rates of up to 5:1, providing up to 5 units of energy for each unit of electricity consumed. Geothermal HVAC is very affordable to run, allowing homeowners to save approximately 70 percent on monthly energy bills versus conventional HVAC systems.
  • Environmentally friendly – Because they consume no fossil fuels and boast highly efficient electricity use, geothermal heating and cooling is a more environmentally friendly option for indoor comfort.
  • Long equipment life – Geothermal heating and cooling systems last longer than conventional HVAC equipment. While geothermal heat pumps last about as long as a conventional air conditioner (12 to 15 years with proper care) the ground loop components can last over 50 years! The loop is well protected within the earth and is not easily damaged.

Learn More about Geothermal HVAC Options for Your Home 

Still have questions about how geothermal heating and cooling works? Interested in an estimate for installation on your property? Call Energy Savers today to chat with our team, and request an appointment. Our knowledgeable technicians make sure you understand the ins and outs of geothermal heating and cooling systems work so you can fully realize the great benefits these systems deliver!