A geothermal heat pump is a renewable energy technology that has been around since the 1940s, now gaining new traction in residential and commercial markets. Also known as a ground source heat pump, it makes use of the relatively constant temperature just a few feet below ground, whether it is winter or summer. The system can pump heat into your home and be reversed to cool things off. And since it does not produce heat using fossil fuels, energy efficiency is improved.
How a Geothermal Heat Pump Works
The system operates on the same principle as your refrigerator. But rather than removing heat from inside the appliance and transferring it to your kitchen, the heat pump moves heat from underground into your entire home. The system consists of loops of underground pipes, which may be filled with water or antifreeze. The heat pump itself works like an air conditioner or furnace.
When heat is needed, liquid absorbs it from underground and pumps it to refrigerant coils. Warm air is then delivered through a forced air system and ductwork, or through a liquid-based hydronic system. The process can be reversed to provide cooling. The pump changes direction so heat from inside is absorbed, transferred, and released back into the ground. Depending on the system, it can provide hot water too.
Benefits of a Geothermal Heat Pump
Although installing a geothermal system is significantly more expensive than a similar-capacity air source system, it can provide benefits such as:
- Lower Operating Cost: You’ll save up to 60% on heating and up to 50% on cooling costs, so the added expense of initial installation may be recouped in energy savings over five to 10 years.
- Flexible Installation: A geothermal system can be installed in a new construction, but is also suited for retrofits, which often require ductwork and other modifications.
- Clean Energy: There is no combustion, so therefore no carbon monoxide or other greenhouse gases are emitted; the system causes no air quality issues outside or inside your home.
- Long Lasting: Indoor components can last 25 years, while the ground loop can last 50 years or more. That’s because there are fewer moving parts than a furnace, which may not even last 15 years.
- Quiet: The indoor unit is the only component that produces noise, and at about the same volume as a household refrigerator. An outdoor compressor or fan is not used for geothermal heating or cooling
Types of Geothermal Heat Pumps
The most cost-effective configuration for a residential installation is a horizontal system. Pipes are buried a few feet underground, in trenches at least four feet deep, usually under your yard. Vertical systems are more often used for commercial buildings; they avoid disturbing landscaping and involve drilling about four-inch-wide holes up to 400 feet deep.
The most common types of geothermal systems include:
- Closed-Loop: High-density plastic tubing is buried underground or submerged in water. It’s connected to a heat exchanger that transfers heat between the refrigerant in the heat pump and antifreeze in the loop. Direct exchange systems use copper tubing instead of a heat exchanger.
- Open-Loop: The heat exchange fluid is a body of water on the surface or a well. It is circulated through the system to provide heat; afterward, the water is returned to the ground directly or discharged on the surface. A relatively clean groundwater supply is needed.
- Hybrid: Combines a geothermal resource with outdoor air or other technology. A hybrid heat pump is more effective when you are in greater need of cooling than heating. Where possible, a standing column well configuration may be used, in which water is drawn from the bottom of the column and returned to the top.
Contact Sky Heating and Air Conditioning
We are experienced at installing geothermal heat pumps in every climate. With a heat pump, you can create temperature control zones in your home, each individually controlled, and easily switch between heating and cooling. If you’re ready to benefit from greater energy efficiency, comfort, and long-term savings, get in touch online or call 503-694-4587 today. Ask about our special offers, financing, and maintenance plans as well.