The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of homeowners here in Green Bay, WI, have enlisted Van's Refrigeration to make their homes geothermal homes. Still leery of geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Comprehending some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – would likely help.

We’ve talked elsewhere about the merits of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that hardly any other manner of maintaining a climatically comfortable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, dependable, or economical, especially when you consider the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that a reality.

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 something likely just as valuable to many of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t call for oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a stratum of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten blend, for the most part made up 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 serves to do is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a reasonably consistent year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So? Underground temperatures in Green Bay (and most places stateside, as it were) are warmer than the ambient air above ground in Winter and cooler than the ambient air above ground in Summer.

Time to Get Pumped!

What geothermal heating and cooling systems do, then, is transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, in accordance with the season. Either way, your home’s interior remains at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family comfortable year-round.

The apparatus that effects the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (typically antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (typically fashioned of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) buried in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it travels through the loops, it sucks up heat from the earth and is reintroduced 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. Looking for details? You’ll find more comprehensive 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 making use of the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems don’t only run quieter but also prove considerably more trustworthy, need less maintenance, have much longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than conventional HVACs. That’s also why, ultimately, you’ll save lots more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Van's Refrigeration, your Green Bay geothermal heating and cooling authority, today.