The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Plenty of homeowners here in Greater Cincinnati, Ohio, have signed on with Bill Spade Electric, Heating & Cooling to upgrade their homes to geothermal homes. Still leery of geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – may help.

We’ve talked elsewhere about the rewards of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s quite sufficient to say here that almost no other means of maintaining a comfortable home environment year-round are as efficient, reliable, or ultimately low-cost, particularlly when you size up the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works that magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We tap the earth for precious metals. We tap the earth for oil. Now, to an unprecedented degree, we’re tapping the earth for something no doubt just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t involve oil.

You see, just beneath the earth’s crust – that would be, oh, say, 33,000 feet under our feet – is a layer of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten mixture, for the most part comprised of silicates, in which temperatures range from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter the deeper you go (not that you’d want to go there!). What this does is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a fairly consistent year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Result? Underground temperatures in Greater Cincinnati (and essentially everywhere stateside, as it were) are warmer than the ambient air above ground in Winter and cooler than the ambient air above ground in Summer.

Time to Get Pumped!

What geothermal heating and cooling systems do, then, is transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, as the season dictates. Either way, your home’s interior remains at the best possible temperature to keep you and your family in comfort month after month.

The apparatus that accomplishes 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) placed 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 returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid goes into the loops, where it absorbs 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 key point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They don’t work like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by mobilizing the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems don’t only run quieter but also prove much more dependable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than standard HVACs. That’s also why, in the long run, you’ll save a great deal more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Bill Spade Electric, Heating & Cooling, your Greater Cincinnati geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.