The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of people here in Northern Virginia, VA, have signed on with Renewable Energy Solutions to make their homes geothermal homes. Still hesitant about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve mentioned elsewhere the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s quite sufficient to say here that almost no other manner of maintaining apleasant home environment all year long are as efficient, trustworthy, or economical, particularlly when you gauge the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works its magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We mine the earth for precious metals. We drill the earth for oil. Now, more than ever, we’re tapping the earth for a commodity no doubt just as valuable to a majority of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t call for 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 run from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter the deeper you go (not that you’d want to go there!). What this serves to do is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a reasonably constant year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So? Underground temperatures in Northern Virginia (and most places 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 remains at the best possible temperature to keep you and your family in comfort year-round.

The appiance that effects the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (predominantly antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (predominantly fashioned of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) placed in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it courses through the loops, it takes in heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid goes into the loops, where it absorbs the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need details? You’ll find more thorough information on ground loops here.

The primary point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They aren’t 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 are not only quieter but also considerably more reliable, need less maintenance, have much longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than standard HVACs. That’s also why, ultimately, you’ll save a lot more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Talk with Renewable Energy Solutions, your Northern Virginia geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.