The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of homeowners here in Grinnell, Iowa, have hired Latcham Enterprises to make their homes geothermal homes. Still suspicious of geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding a little of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – may help.

We’ve talked elsewhere about the merits of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that few other manner of maintaining apleasant home environment all year long are as efficient, dependable, or affordable, especially when you consider the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that possible.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We dig in the earth for precious metals. We dig in the earth for oil. Now, as never before, we’re tapping the earth for a commodity no doubt just as valuable to the majority of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t involve oil.

You see, close 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, mainly 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 constant year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning? Underground temperatures in Grinnell (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, in keeping with the season. Either way, your home’s interior is maintained at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family in comfort, whatever the season.

The apparatus that performs the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (commonly antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (commonly made 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 flows 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 takes in 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 principal 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 employing the energy already amply available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems are not only quieter but also a lot more dependable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, over the long haul, you’ll save lots more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Get hold of Latcham Enterprises, your Grinnell geothermal heating and cooling authority, today.