The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Scores of residents here in Columbia, South Carolina, have sought WaterFurnace to make their homes geothermal homes. Still apprehensive about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding a bit of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve written elsewhere about the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that hardly any other methods of maintaining a comfortable home environment year-round are as efficient, reliable, or economical, particularlly when you gauge the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that possible.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We mine the earth for precious metals. We drill the earth for oil. Now, to a heretofore unparalleled degree, we’re tapping the earth for something no doubt just as valuable to many of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t involve oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – that would be in the neighborhood of 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 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 year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Result? Underground temperatures in Columbia (and essentially everywhere 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, as the season dictates. Either way, your home environment stays at the ideal temperature to keep you and your family happy, whatever the season.

The mechanism that handles the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (typically antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (typically made of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) installed in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it flows through the loops, it assimilates heat from the earth and is reintroduced to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid enters the loops, where it’s cooled by the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Want details? You’ll find more thorough information on ground loops here.

The primary point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They’re not like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by making use of the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems not only run quieter but also are a lot more dependable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than traditional HVACs. That’s also why, in the long run, you’ll save much more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Get hold of WaterFurnace, your Columbia geothermal heating and cooling professional, today.