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HVAC Education, Buying Tips, Geothermal, Technology, Fan Coils

What Is Geothermal Heat?



A geothermal heat pump taps into the energy of the Earth to heat or cool your home. Rather than burning fuel, it extracts heat from the ground during winter and brings it indoors. To cool, the system removes heat from your home and transfers it into the ground using a series of pipes buried in your yard or sunk in a pond, or by using well water. 
Here’s how it works: 
Heat Exchange: The system consists of a heat pump unit installed inside of your home and a buried ground loop. The ground loop consists of a series of pipes buried in in your yard or sunk in a pond, or by using well water. 
Heat Absorption: The fluid in the ground loop absorbs heat from the earth through geothermal heat exchange. The temperature below the earth's surface remains relatively constant throughout the year. 
Heat Pump Operation: The heat transfer fluid carries the absorbed heat to the heat pump unit inside the home. The heat pump uses a compressor and a heat exchanger to extract and concentrate the heat. 
Heating Mode: During the heating mode, the heat pump transfers the heat into the home's distribution system, such as underfloor radiant heating or ductwork for forced air, providing warmth. 
Cooling Mode: In the cooling mode, the process is reversed. The heat pump extracts heat from the home's interior and transfers it to the fluid in the ground loop. The heat is then dissipated into the cooler earth.

What Are the Components of a Geothermal Heat Pump System?

Major components of a geothermal heat pump system:

  • Indoor unit that contains a compressor and a fan to move air through your home, with two-stage or variable-speed blowers that ensure even temperatures and the right humidity levels
  • Refrigerant that absorbs and releases the heat as it circulates through the system
  • Pipes, also called loops, that are installed underground or underwater and are filled with liquid that pulls heat from the soil or water and transfers it into your home
    • A horizontal loop is placed in trenches six feet underground and is used in homes with larger lot sizes with room to spread them out.
    • A vertical loop is placed in a hole running as far down as 400 feet deep and is used in homes with smaller lot sizes that may not be able to accommodate a horizontal loop.
    • A pond loop is placed in a natural body of water, 10 or more feet below the surface.
    • An open-loop system uses water from the ground, a well, or a lake as the liquid inside the pipes.

What Are the Benefits of Geothermal Heat Pumps?

  • Savings. Operating costs up to 70 percent lower than ordinary systems.*
  • Comfort. Even temperatures throughout your home all year round.
  • Environmentally friendly. Clean, green, renewable resource.
  • Reliable. With fewer moving parts, geothermal heat pumps last longer than ordinary HVAC systems and heat pumps.
  • Quiet. With no above-ground outdoor equipment and a fully insulated indoor cabinet, these units have quiet operation.
  • Hot water source. During operation, excess heat can be used to supplement your water heater.
  • Long-lasting. The heat pump unit has a lifespan of 20 or more years and the underground loops can have a lifespan of 25–50 years or longer.

*Savings calculated using Carrier LoopLink software. Comparison based on simulation in Dallas, TX, with a Carrier 6-ton unit versus standing pilot propane furnace, standard air conditioner and local fuel rates. Actual savings will vary based on configuration, weather and local energy costs.

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