The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Quite a few residents here in West Branch, Michigan, have recruited Nicholson Heating & Cooling to make their homes geothermal homes. Still hesitant about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing something of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – may help.

We’ve discusseded elsewhere the rewards of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that almost no other methods of maintaining apleasant home environment whatever the season are as efficient, trustworthy, or economical, particularlly when you consider the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that possible.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We tap the earth for precious metals. We tap the earth for oil. Now, to an unprecedented degree, we’re tapping the earth for a commodity probably just as valuable to many of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t necessitate oil.

You see, just beneath the earth’s crust – we’re talking no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a layer of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten mixture, for the most part comprised of silicates, in which temperatures vary from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter the deeper you go (not that you’d want to go there!). What this does is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a relatively constant year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning? Underground temperatures in West Branch (and essentially everywhere stateside, in any event) are warmer than the ambient air above ground in Winter and cooler than the ambient air above ground in Summer.

Time to Get Pumped!

This, then, is what geothermal heating and cooling systems do: they transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, as the season dictates. Either way, your home is maintained at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family in comfort throughout the year.

The device that executes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (typically antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (typically fashioned of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) installed in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it flows through the loops, it sucks up heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid enters the loops, where it assimilates the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need details? You’ll find more specific information on ground loops here.

The central point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They don’t work like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by putting to use the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems not only run quieter but also are a lot more dependable, need less maintenance, have significantly longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than standard HVACs. That’s also why, in the long run, you’ll save much more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Nicholson Heating & Cooling, your West Branch geothermal heating and cooling authority, today.