Down to Earth Comfort
More and more Americans are discovering the benefits of using the energy found in their own backyard to heat and cool their homes. Geothermal heat systems tap into the stored solar energy found just a few feet below the grounds surface. This type of geothermal heat pump system offers unmatched comfort and energy savings to the home owner. The energy supply is constantly being re-supplied by the sun so the homeowner never runs out of heating or cooling potential.
Compared to a traditional forced air system, a geothermal cooling and heating system lasts longer, is more energy efficient, and is safer to use because there is no combustion, flames or fumes and no chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. Homeowners who choose this “green” system will receive a 30% tax credit on their federal tax return in either 2009 or 2010.That means your payback on the geothermal ground source heating system is 1/3 less time and the federal government actually gives you a credit on taxes owed or sends you a check if your taxes owed are less than 30% of the cost of the geothermal purchase and installation.
Choosing a geothermal heating cooling system is a smart investment giving you years of affordable enhanced comfort as well as satisfaction at knowing you are preserving the environment for future generations and can help the nation by reducing the country’s need for foreign oil.
What is Geothermal?
Geothermal means heat from the earth. Heat equals energy. In a few parts of the world (New Zealand for instance) harness the large amount of geothermal heat from magma deep within the earth which rises to the surface for their electric power. In areas where this is possible you will see boiling mud and steam escaping from the earth, the earth will actually be hot to the touch. Other parts of the world can harness geothermal heat that is stored near the surface of the earth – this heat/energy is captured from the sun’s rays and is naturally stored within the earth. We harness it by inserting pipes a few feet down into the earth and moving the warm or cool temperature into the buildings heat pump. At a few feet down, the earth stays a fairly constant temperature and this constant is what the geothermal heat pump works off. It is approximately 55 degrees.
How can I use geothermal?
Industrial and residential geothermal systems can be used to heat and cool their buildings. Today’s geothermal systems are the most energy efficient heating and cooling systems available. It is more efficient than even the most efficient boilers and forced systems. This year’s tax credit of 30% makes today the best time in history to install this type of system. This system is environmentally friendly, emits no pollutants, and will help lower our dependence on foreign oil, which is why the President and Congress are giving us the 30% federal tax credit as an incentive to change.
How does a Geothermal System work?
A ground source heat pump moves heat energy from one place to another (warm into the building in winter and out of the building in summer). In the winter, the earth is warmer than the air and the opposite is true in summer. A heat pump works very much like your refrigerator, heat is carried away from the inside storage area to the outside –the air in your kitchen. With a geothermal system, the heat is transferred to the earth rather than into the air like your refrigerator. A geothermal heat pump condenses the heat or cool it takes from the earth and with very little electricity it is able to both heat and cools your entire home. For a more in depth information on the mechanical workings of a geothermal heat pump, go to Wikipedia or ask.com
Does geothermal both heat and cool a living space?
Yes – this versatile system can do both. Just like with traditional heating and cooling systems, it is as easy as the flip of a switch on your thermostat to change from heating to cooling. In the winter, the geothermal heat pump brings the warmth of the earth into the building and in the summer, the pump takes out the warmth of your building and transfers it to the ground. The geothermal unit does both the heating and the cooling, unlike a forced air systems, which uses two distinctly different systems (the furnace and the air conditioner).
How does the system take heating and cooling from the earth?
Heat is extracted from the earth through a liquid medium that runs through an underground pipe loop system. The liquid medium is pumped to the heat pump. The pumps major components are: an exchanger, compressor, expansion device, reversing valve and evaporator. This compact appliance is where the heating and cooling is enhanced. A geothermal heat pump works at a much lower pressure than traditional systems, which provides a longer life expectancy and safer operation of the system.
These systems provide quiet, reliable and energy-efficient heating and cooling for both large and small buildings.
Where can the loop system are installed?
Any locations where a well can be drilled or trenches can be dug are suitable installation sites. The geothermal system is used in the all areas of the world and is now gaining popularity in the U.S. due to the enhanced comfort benefits, the generous tax credit, and the long term energy savings for the building owner. The pipe loop system can be run either vertically or horizontally depending on the site where the systems are to be installed. Small sites have the loops installed vertically; a well (or wells are) is drilled and the pipe loop is inserted into the ground; the pipes are then connected to the building's heat pump. Larger sites use a horizontal (trenching type) installation where multiple pipes are buried in multiple trenches and connected the building. The length of pipe that is needed is determined and is talked about in terms of tonnage similar to air conditioning.
What kind of pipe is used?
Only high density polyethylene pipe is used; no other type of pipe is suitable. To ensure successful ground-to- pipe contact, grout is used to fill in around the pipes; it is for this reason that manufacturers suggest that this is not a do it yourself project. Once the pipe is the ground, you cannot go back and try to fix it. For the most efficient system, a professional installation is required.
Can the system be seen from the outside of the building?
No. Once the system is installed and grass or landscaping is finished there is no sign that there is anything is below the ground. Within one season the lands looks just like it did before.
Why don’t these pipes freeze in winter?
An antifreeze solution is used in the loops; propylene glycol, methyl alcohol, or ethyl alcohol is the expected solutions.
Heat Pumps run using a unit that looks like and acts like an air conditioner, but the hot coils are on the inside and the cool coils are on the outside. The heat pump is very efficient —it contains a valve that lets it switch between AC & heat (the pump actually reverses the Freon.) Rather than using fuel it “moves the heat” from inside to out or outside to in. We install Trane Heat Pumps.
Geothermal is a system that uses the constant temperature of the earth for both heating & cooling. Below 5 feet, the ground temperature is always 55 degrees. The Geothermal loops (of piping) in the ground deliver the 55 degree liquid to the equipment which produces either heating or cooling – it works much like an air conditioner by working off the temperate difference of the air compared to the 55 degree temperature of the earth.
Hybrid Systems use a heat pump that can produce heating or cooling. Contrary to popular belief, heat pumps work well in the Chicago area climate.
State & Federal Tax credits & incentives are now available which means the payback on a system like this can be as little as 4-5 years. No one really knows what the price of energy will rise to or how extreme our seasons will be and that will make an impact on how much money you will be saving. There is one thing is for sure—as soon as you install a system like this you will start to save money on your energy bills.
The new administration also has helped get the word out about geothermal and is offering homeowners a 30% tax credit as an incentive to install these energy efficient geothermal systems.