Imagine, if you will, an abundant source of free, renewable energy that could be used for home heating in winter, cooling in summer, and hot tap water all year. Well, guess what: It really exists. It’s called the sun!
But it’s not really solar heating we’re talking about here. No, we're actually thinking of geothermal heating – and cooling.
Talk about energy-efficient! More than any other residential system, geothermal heating and cooling can provide the lowest utility bills, with potential utility savings of anywhere from 40% to 70%
. How? By tapping into the renewable energy that’s stored in the ground from the sun’s rays.
"The secret to a geothermal heat pump’s amazing efficiency is that, although it operates similarly to a standard heat pump, it exchanges heat with the ground instead of the outdoor air," says Tom Huntington, President and CEO of WaterFurnace, the leading manufacturer of geothermal products. "The temperature of the outdoor air can vary greatly from day to night and more than 100°F from the coldest winter night to the hottest summer day. In contrast, the temperature just a few feet below the earth’s surface stays an average 55°-70°F year-round."
In the winter, a geothermal heat pump can produce up to five dollars worth of heat for each dollar spent on electricity. The most efficient traditional furnace, on the other hand, returns less than 98¢ of heat for each dollar spent on expensive, polluting fossil fuel. And, unlike ordinary heat pumps, which struggle to pull heat from the air as the outdoor temperature drops, the efficiency and heat output from a geothermal heat pump remains constant.
In the summer, a regular heat pump or central air conditioner loses efficiency and cooling output when the outdoor temperature rises. And, of course, this is when your house requires the greatest cooling capacity! The Envision series from WaterFurnace is the highest rated unit ever certified by AHRI (the association responsible for industry ratings) at 30 EER (energy efficiency ratio). This is typically more than twice as efficient as a standard heat pump or central air conditioner.
To capture the heat energy from the ground in winter or disperse heat during summer, a long pipe is usually buried in the ground or placed at the bottom of a pond. An environmentally friendly antifreeze/water solution, running through the pipe, acts as the heat transfer medium. If there’s an adequate supply of clean water, it can be used to transfer heat. Many new models also use earth-friendly R-410A refrigerant instead of Freon.
Geothermal systems are extremely quiet, because there's no outdoor equipment to bother neighbors or your family at night. This also reduces wear and tear from constant exposure to outdoor weather and playing children.
The Environmental Protection Agency has called geothermal heat pumps-also known as ground-source heat pumps or geoexchange-the most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective heating and air conditioning systems available.
You can learn more about geothermal by visiting the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium
website or by contacting us