Geothermal heating diagram of home illustrating how geothermal heating works.

How Does Geothermal Heating Work?

During the day, the Sun naturally heats up the Earth. The surface and underneath becomes heated directly from the solar heat. A geothermal system can harness the Earth’s temperature and distribute heat and air conditioning throughout your home. Geothermal heating systems have their pros and cons, but in the end becomes one of the most ideal heating systems of the lot. So how does geothermal heating work?

The Breakdown

Geothermal heating systems function because of the Earth’s natural heat resources. The ground will absorb about 50% of the Sun’s energy and is naturally absorbed into the pipes underground, which are oftentimes called “loops”. Inside of these pipes is a water solution which is circulated throughout the pipes. This liquid is what carries the heat throughout the pipes until it reaches your heat pump. The geothermal heat pump is where the heat is removed from the water and sent along to your central heating system in your home. You probably have a thermostat and a central unit inside that is controlling the warm air coming into your home.

Let’s summarize:

  • The Sun heats the Earth
  • This heat is transferred to water-filled underground pipes
  • This water goes through a heat pump
  • The heat pump sends the heated air to the distribution system

For visual learners, here’s a graphic to help you picture it:

geotheral heating

In this picture you can see that the pipes are generally as deep as your basement. They don’t go too far down because the heat would be more difficult to harness. The black single pipe moves into the heat pump, which seems to have 2 red buttons on it. This is where the true distribution happens.

How Energy Efficient is it?

A geothermal system is, on average, about 4 times as efficient as a traditional HVAC system. Depending on whether or not your home is insulated, you may notice a significant difference in your energy bill in the first month of use. If your home is not insulated, then the geothermal system will only reduce your bill by a little bit; however, if your home is insulated, then you’ll notice a significant drop. Some homeowners see about $50 less on their bill in the first few months. As one would expect, this means that the geothermal system actually pays for itself over the course of about 5-10 years in most cases. The life expectancy can go upwards of 25-30 years, making your investment costs nearly insignificant.

Conclusion

Geothermal systems are energy efficient heating and cooling systems that can keep your home at a comfortable preset temperature for less than your average fossil fuel-driven HVAC system.

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