What is Geothermal Energy?
What is geothermal energy for the homeowner. Geothermal energy is energy from the earth. A geothermal heat pump uses the earth’s energy to either produce hot or cool air, depending on the season. It can be a very cost efficient method of heating and cooling your home. If you are interested in a quieter, more efficient and greener way to heat and cool your home consider a geothermal heat pump.
The Basics of a Heat Pump
As you start researching this technology, you will find it has a few aliases, ground source heat pumps, geoexchange systems, direct geoexchange and geothermal heat pump. A heat pump enables you to tap into the earth’s natural energy and use it to heat or cool your home. Generally speaking, a heat pump works by pulling hot air from the ground during the cooler seasons to warm your home and pumping hot air from your home back to the underground during the warmer months. This system heats your home in the winter and cools your home in the summer, it can also heat your water.
The System and Installation
There are two elements to consider, the heat exchanger which will be similar in size and shape as your current furnace and will be located in your basement or attic. This unit replaces your furnace, air conditioner and if you choose an add on, will also replace your hot water heater.
The second element is the loop system, these are the pipes that are underground and connect to the heat exchanger. There are two types of loop systems, open loop systems or closed loop systems. They can be installed either horizontally, vertically or in a water source. This is the portion of the system that has the largest variables in installation costs. The amount of land available and the type of soil are factors in the type of installation available to you. If you have a source of water nearby, this also becomes an option.
The closed loop system is more popular. It is a series of pipes buried in the ground or a water source. The open loop system requires ground water to circulate through the system, environment officials should be consulted and there may be local restrictions to consider.
Horizontal loop installations are the most disruptive to your landscape, but the most cost effective to install. It's a popular choice for new home construction. Before dismissing this option, consider the cost differences of replacing your landscaping to a vertical installation. It may be worth updating the landscaping.
Vertical loop installations include drilling 100-400 feet and the loops are a spiral of coils into the ground, less invasive to landscaping, but more costly to drill.
If you have a pond or a body of water nearby, long sections of the loop can be submerged in a closed loop system. The depth of the body of water is important, but the cost of this system is attractive and worth exploring if you have a nearby body of water. My new home has a lake, this is how we will install our system.
Loop installation improvements are advancing making the drilling more affordable, more efficient and less invasive to the landscape. Get several estimates if you are considering this technology, the cost variations may be broad.
Living in the Midwest where the winters are long and very cold and the summers are hot and humid, heating and cooling my home is a large part of my electric bill. There are few months when neither the heater or the AC are on, and it's nice to see a small electric bill during those times. A geothermal heat pump is very efficient at heating, cooling and supplying your home with hot water. If you live in an area where heating and cooling represent a significant portion of your energy bill, a heat pump is a good option to consider.
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