Unlock the potential for energy efficiency and sustainable home comfort with geothermal heating. It could be the answer if you’re searching for a reliable and eco-friendly alternative to a traditional HVAC system.
Geothermal systems offer a host of benefits. Homeowners love reduced energy costs, a smaller carbon footprint, and long-term durability.
We’ve put together a guide to help you better understand geothermal heating and cooling. Take a minute and learn how you, too, can revolutionize your home’s climate control.
What Is a Geothermal Heating System?
Maybe right now, you’re feeling like an outsider because it seems like everyone in the neighborhood is talking about geothermal heat. You’re not sure what the buzz is about, so you change the subject.
It’s not that complicated!
Geothermal heating is an efficient way to use the earth’s natural heat to regulate the temperature in your home. The system has three principal components:
- Geothermal heat pump
- Geothermal loop
- Air handler
The three components work together to transfer heat between the air and the ground. You can’t have a system without all three.
There are several types of heating and cooling systems for your home, but a geothermal system can do just about everything a standard HVAC system can do, and then some.
Let’s start with the heat pump. You may be surprised at the way a heat pump works.
Geothermal Heat Pump Basics
The heart of the geothermal heating system is the heat pump. Most people install the heat pump in the garage or basement. This clever device circulates fluid through pipes, the geothermal loop, buried 4-6 feet deep into the ground.
The heat pump pulls the liquid in from the geothermal loop.
During winter, the heat pump extracts heat from the liquid. It processes the heat and sends it to an air handler. Now, your home can feel cozy.
In a reverse move, during the summer, the system takes the heat from your home and sends it back to the ground.
Geothermal heat pumps are attractive for two reasons. First, they don’t rely on fossil fuels. Second, they don’t consume a lot of electricity.
Heat pumps and other components of geothermal systems are true super-players in the green energy market for home heating and cooling.
Geothermal Heat Pumps Do Not Act Alone
In a geothermal heating and cooling system, there is typically an air handler. The heat pump extracts the heat, but the air handler circulates the warm air throughout your home. In the summer, the heat pump may remove the heat from your home, but, again, its the air handler that distributes that conditioned air to different rooms.
The air handler has a fan that blows the air. It also has a series of ducts that deliver air to various areas of your home. The ductwork connects to vents in the walls, floors, or ceilings.
How your ductwork functions depends on the design of your home’s heating and cooling system. Also, while we won’t cover them in this article, you can pair a geothermal heat pump with a ductless mini-split AC system.
More About Geothermal Loops
By now, you’ve realized that the heat pump isn’t the star of the show. While the heat hump is the backbone of a geothermal heating system, it needs geothermal loops before it can perform.
The magic happens in a geothermal loop.
The loops contain fluid, often a mix of water and antifreeze. This mix acts as a heat carrier.
The heat carrier absorbs the ground’s natural heat.
How does that work?
Regardless of air temperature, the temperature below ground remains relatively constant. Even on the chilliest morning, you can depend on the earth to provide warmth.
As mentioned above, the liquid in the geothermal loop absorbs ground heat. As the liquid travels through the underground loops, it gets warmer.
The magical abilities of geothermal loops depend on depth. The installer must bury the pipes deep enough that they reach the zone where the temperature remains around 55 degrees.
There are two primary loop configurations: horizontal and vertical.
Most residential installations get a horizontal pipe placement. Residential properties usually have more room for horizontal installation.
You’ll find vertical loops more in commercial installations, where there’s less space.
As far as cost, it’s more economical to install horizontal piping. Your installer won’t need to dig deeper than 4-6 feet. Vertical pipe installation costs more because the installers must dig a deeper trench.
Do You Have a Pond on Your Property?
If you have a pond or lake, you can install a geothermal loop in the water. There’s no need to dig, which makes a pond loop a cost-effective option.
Before you get excited and make plans for a pond loop, the water in your pond must meet certain criteria. Your installer will understand the requirements, so rely on their expertise when planning your system.
Note: Pond loops work well in warmer climates where people cool their homes more than they use heat. They’re not the best solution for people who live in colder climates.
Geothermal Cooling Systems Work on the Same Principle
If you think that geothermal systems only heat your home, you’re not alone. The name geothermal doesn’t make you think about relaxing in an air-conditioned home, does it?
A geothermal heat pump is a two-in-one HVAC system. It takes care of both heating and cooling.
When summer heat arrives, the heat pump works in reverse.
Instead of pumping warm air to the air handler, it pulls heat from the air and transfers it to the geothermal loop. Next, it goes back to the ground where it dissipates.
Once the extracted hot air leaves your home, you have cool air for the air handler to circulate through the house.
Advantages of Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems
Geothermal heating and cooling systems offer several advantages over traditional HVAC systems. Let’s explore these benefits in more detail:
Geothermal systems have a reputation for exceptional energy efficiency. Because they tap into the earth’s stable temperature, they require less energy to heat or cool your home compared to traditional HVAC systems.
Geothermal heating systems use renewable energy, reducing reliance on fossil fuels. These systems have a smaller carbon footprint and contribute to a cleaner environment.
The energy efficiency of geothermal systems directly translates into cost savings. Initial costs may be higher, but long-term savings will make up for it.
Durability and Longevity
If you want a system that will last for several decades, a geothermal system deserves a close look. Underground components, such as ground loops, can last for up to 10 years or longer with minimal maintenance. Other HVAC systems usually last 10-12 years.
Geothermal systems provide consistent heating and cooling throughout your home. Traditional systems may develop issues that cause temperature fluctuations and uneven comfort levels.
Compared to traditional HVAC units, geothermal systems operate quietly. The absence of noisy outdoor condenser units contributes to a peaceful and serene living environment.
Your HVAC contractor can design a geothermal system to accommodate just about any home size and layout. You can even install part of the system underwater if you have a pond or lake.
Key Things to Consider When Switching to Geothermal Heating
If you’re interested in switching to geothermal heating and cooling for your home, several key factors should be considered. These things help ensure optimal system performance. They include:
- Soil composition
- Thermal conductivity
- Landspace availability
- Proper system design and sizing
- Financial incentives
- Regular maintenance
Talk to your HVAC contractor to get answers about system design, size, and geological factors.
What About Financial Incentives?
Evaluating financial incentives for geothermal heat pumps is wise. These incentives can make the change to geothermal heating more affordable.
Here are some key points to consider:
Federal Tax Credits
Geothermal installations qualify for the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This incentive allows homeowners to claim a percentage of their geothermal systems cost as a tax credit. Research tax credits and consult a tax pro.
State and Local Incentives
Many states and local municipalities offer additional incentives to promote renewable energy. You may qualify for rebates, grants, low-interest loans, or property tax incentives. Research state and local government websites or reach out to local energy offices to explore incentives specific to your area.
Utility Provider Programs
Some utility companies provide special programs and incentives for customers who install geothermal systems. These programs may include rebates, favorable financing options, or discounted energy rates. Ask your utility provider about geothermal programs for potential savings.
Renewable Energy Certificates
Renewable Energy Certificates represent the environmental benefits of using renewable energy sources. You can earn RECs by installing a geothermal system.
Customers who need help managing the upfront costs of geothermal installations can often find financing options. These options can include low-interest loans, energy-efficiency mortgages, or lease programs. Research financial institutions that offer favorable terms for geothermal projects.
Ready to Switch to Geothermal Heating?
Geothermal systems help keep your home comfortable and save you money.
If you’re considering geothermal heating and cooling, don’t wait for the next season to arrive. Explore your options today by reaching out to Antons Plumbing, Heating/Cooling, and Energy Experts.
We have over 40 years of experience installing and servicing all types of HVAC and geothermal equipment. Let us help you get your geothermal heating project up and running!