How Does Geothermal Heating and Cooling Work?
Geothermal heating utilizes the same type of heat pump as an air source heating and cooling system. But in this case, the heat pump extracts energy from the ground using a series of pipes and an antifreeze/water mixture. The water is circulated through those pipes to gather heat and then transferred back to the heat pump. The heat pump then takes the heat from the fluid and transfers it to air which is circulated through your home via air ducts.
Once the compressor unit transfers the heat to the air in your home, the coolant mixture is returned to the pipes in the ground to gather more heat and restart the process. It works smoothly over time and therefore ensures you have a steady source of heat in your home.
The best part about a geothermal heat pump is that, like a standard heat pump, it can be used in reverse during the summer. During the warmer months, heat is absorbed from your home by the compressor unit and then transferred to the fluid in your geothermal system to be distributed into the ground outside. A good geothermal system will serve you well year-round.
How Much Does Geothermal Installation Cost?
The cost of geothermal installation can vary greatly depending on the size of your home, the composition of the ground around it and the climate in which you live. It’s generally more expensive than a standard heat pump or forced air heating system, however, due to the cost of initial drilling and installation.
That added cost is almost always converted into savings after a few years, though, due to the very low fuel use of the system. Once a geothermal system is installed, it not only works steadily for years, but it uses almost no outside energy other than what’s needed to run the compressor and air handler.
One of the main costs of installation is the drilling. For most homes, a horizontal installation allows you to draw enough heat from the ground to keep your home comfortable in the winter. This involves placing anywhere from 100 to 400 feet of piping beneath your property. A horizontal installation requires no drilling, just labor for the digging. However, for colder environments or larger homes, vertical pipe installation is an option, and that requires a much deeper hole to be drilled in the ground.
How Efficient Is a Geothermal Heat Pump?
Geothermal heat pumps are between 50% and 70% more efficient than traditional furnaces or radiant heating systems. They are also 20% to 40% more efficient than traditional air conditioning systems. So in the winter or summer you will save money using a geothermal heat pump instead of your traditional system.
This amount can vary quite a bit depending on the size and location of your home, as well as the type of fuel you currently use for heating.
How Do I Know Which Type of Installation I Need?
Most homes use a closed loop installation, but is vertical or horizontal piping best? Many factors will determine which style works best for your home. Horizontal installations work well for homes in areas that do not freeze for a large portion of the year. Frozen ground can still be used for heating, but the volume of heat you can gather is much lower in horizontal systems.
Vertical systems may also be recommended if you don’t have much space on your property. Because anywhere from 100 to 400 feet of pipe is needed for a horizontal system, a decent sized yard is necessary. Vertical systems are good for urban or tightly packed suburban areas where you can’t dig up a lot of ground.