The Basic Features and Functions of a Geothermal Heat Pump

What just about everyone says they like most about a geothermal heating and cooling system is that it has almost no moving parts. There’s just that much less that can go haywire– that much less needing maintenance. And that in itself makes a huge difference in reducing the overall energy costs of homeowners who’ve gone geothermal.

 

That said, the system does have some moving parts. Most of them are found in its most conspicuous component, too: the geothermal heat pump.

This is the engine that drives the system. Its task is to transfer heat. And it transfers heat either from the ground into your house or from your house into the ground, depending on ambient temperatures. Consequently, it’s a furnace and an air conditioner integrated into one discreet package.

The medium a heat pump uses to transfer heat is either water or an antifreeze solution. This liquid courses through pipe loops buried underground and attached to the heat pump, which is kept above ground. During heating season the liquid draws heat from the ground, the heat pump draws the warm liquid up into refrigerant coils, and the heat is then is circulated throughout a home by either a forced air or a hydronic system. During cooling season it runs in reverse: the pump draws heat from your home and transfers it underground through those same buried loops. Oh, and as an extra perk, more than a few geothermal systems also provide domestic hot water.

The crucial difference between a geothermal heat pump and a more familiar furnace is that a heat pump doesn’t set fuel afire to generate heat. No, indeed, it takes heat that’s already there and just moves it around. That naturally makes it a much more efficient heating and cooling system. Remember this, too: underground temperatures almost always hold at around 50º F all year long. The upshot? A geothermal heating and cooling system requires significantly less energy to cool your home than standard air conditioners.

So … is a geothermal system what’s needed for your home? See this area’s geothermal wizards, the helpful people at Ground Loop Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.