While it isn’t new technology, geothermal heating hasn’t become the popular HVAC system for residential use that it should have by now. Considering that it efficiently maintains indoor temperatures with hidden, quiet equipment that requires only minimal maintenance while it reduces energy consumption, you would think geothermal heating would be every homeowner’s choice.
While outdoor air temperatures vary with changing weather, temperatures four to six feet below the earth’s surface remain almost constant. A geothermal heating system uses this fact of nature to your benefit.
Generally speaking, a geothermal heating system incorporates an indoor handling unit and an underground loop of pipes that are buried on your property. If there is an underground water supply, the system may include a well.
In cold months, water that circulates through this system absorbs heat from the ground and transfers that heat to the handling unit. The unit increases the temperature and sends it throughout your home. In warm months, the geothermal heating system pulls heat from inside your house and transfers it to the cooler earth. Such systems simply exchange heat to-and-from the ground without burning fossil fuel and only using enough electricity to run the handling unit.
Heat pump efficiency is measured by their “coefficient of performance” (COP), a number that represents how much energy the system distributes, compared to how much it needs to operate. Geothermal heating systems typically have COPs of 3.0 to 5.0, which means that for every unit of energy required to operate the system, three-to-five units are generated as heat.
According to the National Geographic energy blog, “The Great Energy Challenge,” which focuses on the news about fuel and power, there are ten myths that homeowners should know.
Fact: Such systems use only one unit of electricity to generate as much as five units of heating or cooling.
Fact: Geothermal heating systems use four times less electricity than those options.
Fact: Pipe loops can be buried vertically or can tap into underground water to reduce the square footage required.
Fact: These systems are very quiet.
Fact: Geothermal heating systems can last for generations; the heat-exchange units last for decades and are typically the only part that needs replacing.
Fact: They are equally efficient at cooling.
Fact: Systems can be designed to accommodate multiple uses.
Fact: Most systems use only water.
Fact: They consume no water; all water is returned to its source.
Fact: Federal and local incentives can offset from 30 to 60 percent of the initial cost and there are cost savings in monthly utility bills.