How Does a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System Work

If you are looking to go green, but only come across the alternative of solar power, you might want to dig deeper.  Other renewable resources depend on the weather but when the temperature above the ground varies, the temperature below the ground stays consistent. The thermal power generated from the heat beneath the ground is Geothermal Energy.

So how does geothermal energy work? How does a geothermal heating and cooling system work? You can generate geothermal energy with geothermal power plants and geothermal heating pumps.

A geothermal heating and cooling system can adjust the temperature based on your needs throughout the year.

Types of Geothermal Heat Pump Systems

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Before we get to the geothermal heating and cooling system, let us take a look at some types of geothermal heat pump systems available today.

  • Open-loop systems
  • Closed-loop systems
  • Hybrid systems

1. Open-loop Systems

An open-loop geothermal heat pump system makes use of water from well or some other surface body water. This water mainly functions as a heat exchange fluid that circulates between the installed pipes and the water source. You can use this system as a water heater to eliminate the worries of replacing your existing unit.

Just installing pipes underwater will cost less than digging up holes for underground pipes.

2. Closed-loop Systems

A closed-loop geothermal heat pump system works by circulating some refrigerant or an antifreeze solution through closed-loops. These loops are either made out of copper or plastic tubing. You can bury it down in the ground or submerge in the water. You can even use radiant heating alongside a fan and ductwork in many closed-loop systems.

A heat exchanger interchanges the heat in between the antifreeze solution circulating through the closed-loop. Although in terms of direct exchange, the system pumps the refrigerant or antifreeze solution through copper tubing instead of a heat exchanger.

This loop can be vertical, horizontal, and pond/lake configuration.

3. Vertical

Many schools along with some large commercial buildings choose vertical systems because horizontal loops require a very large area. Such loops can minimize the disturbance in the existing landscape and are suited for shallow soils as well.

In order to mount a vertical system properly, you must drill holes about 100 to 400 feet deep and make sure they are 20 feet apart. The two pipes are connected at the bottom with a U-bend to form a loop. All the vertical loops are then connected with horizontal pipes and placed in trenches, connecting it to the heat pump of the building.

4. Horizontal

If you want a system for residential purposes and have sufficient land, opting for the horizontal type of system will be cost-effective. The installation of trenches on this system needs to be four feet deep.

Its layout includes two pipes that are buried at almost six feet and four feet, or side by side at five feet with two-foot-wide trenches. The installation of these pipes on the inside of your walls and floors can help to prevent cold floors.

5. Pond/ Lake

This is the lowest cost option. If in case you can manage an adequate water body, this option would suit you best at the lowest cost possible. For this system, the supply line pipe from your building runs underground up to the water, coiled up in circles. The pipe must get a source with minimum depth volume, and quality criteria and be at least 8 feet under the surface to prevent freezing.

6. Hybrid Systems

A hybrid geothermal heat pump system can make use of different geothermal resources individually, or through a combination of such resources with outdoor air. This option is suitable for people with higher cooling needs.

Are Geothermal Systems Suitable for Every Climate?

The geothermal system relies on the earth’s constant temperature with ground-source heating. So, it can function in any hot or cold climate.

A higher concentration of geothermal heat pumps in states with cold climates and higher population densities can be seen on the map below.

The pipes under the ground carry energy to the heat pump by circulating a water solution. This can heat up buildings during winter and remove heat from the building during summer.

How does the Geothermal Heating and Cooling System Work?

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One of the major uses of a geothermal heat pump is for heating or cooling homes or buildings.

When the temperature outside falls, a geothermal heat pump works to draw and concentrate heat from an underground reservoir and moves it into your house. Unlike a furnace, the geothermal system simply collects heat and moves it instead of creating heat through combustion.

Likewise, when the temperature rises, a geothermal heat pump collects all the unwanted heat from your home and moves it to the earth. Ordinary cooling systems dump this heat outside where the hot summer air is not fully willing to accept more heat.

Switching to a geothermal heating and cooling system is more convenient than using ordinary heat pumps and air conditioners.

In summary,

  • The sun heats up the earth.
  • The heat from the ground is transferred into water-filled underground pipes.
  • This water is transmitted to a heat pump.
  • Lastly, the heat pump gives off the heated air to the distribution system.

Final Words,

Geothermal heat pumps can lighten the load on an electric grid as it helps to reduce electricity demands and carbon emissions. Since its installation cannot be outsourced, it helps to stimulate local economies. Initially, the installation cost might be expensive but these systems can be considered as a long-term investment.