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Questions and Answers about Geothermal Energy Systems


Jay Foley

What is Geothermal Energy?

Geothermal Infographic

The earth absorbs approximately 47% of transmitted solar energy and stores this free thermal energy beneath our feet. So even though the air temperature is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, the ground temperature just a few feet below the surface is relatively constant year round.

Geothermal energy systems

take advantage of this by transferring the warmer energy into our homes in the winter. In the summer, the process is reversed. So the earth is like a large solar collector and storage battery, with more than enough thermal energy for everyone.

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Why is Geothermal So Efficient?

A geothermal system utilizes the large amount of energy/heat stored in the earth beneath our feet. Since geothermal systems only move heat, and do not need to create this energy by burning fuels or standard electrical consumption, efficiencies as high as 500% can be expected in this area. The small amount of electricity needed to operate the heat pump compressor and ground loop circulators can transfer 4 to 5 times that amount in thermal energy for the home.

Is Geothermal Really Good for the Environment?

Absolutely! The EPA has called geothermal systems the most environmentally-friendly way to condition our homes. A ground source heat pump does not have an exhaust and emits zero carbon dioxide. Removing the combustion process from heating reduces our dependance on foriegn oil and eliminates the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning. Geotherm only uses heat pumps with R-410a ozone safe refrigerant and propylene glycol non toxic, sugar based antifreeze.

How Do Geothermal Systems Work?

Three basic components make up a geothermal system. They are:

1) The Ground Loop Heat Exchanger,

2) The Ground Source Heat Pump and

3) The Distribution System (ductwork, radiant flooring, fan coil, etc.).

The Ground Loop is the interface with the earth that transfers energy via a freeze-resistant solution pumped through the exchanger at a high velocity. Several ground loop types and designs are available to match the unique properties of each project (see below).

The Ground Source Heat Pump utilizes a refrigeration circuit to extract thermal energy from the ground loop and transfer it to the distribution system during the winter months to warm the home. During the summer, this process is reversed to cool the home.

The Distribution System quietly delivers heat throughout the home, creating a very even and controlled temperature. Air-based systems use duct work, while radiant flooring or fan coils distribute heat with a water-based hydronic system.

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