The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of residents here in Beckley, West Virginia, have hired Appalachian Heating to turn their homes into geothermal homes. Still suspicious of geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Comprehending 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 apleasant home environment whatever the season are as efficient, trustworthy, or ultimately thrifty, particularlly when you factor in the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works its magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We mine the earth for precious metals. We drill the earth for oil. Now, more than ever, we’re tapping the earth for a resource undoubtedly just as valuable to a majority of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t call for oil.

You see, right under the earth’s crust – no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a stratum of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten blend, chiefly 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 year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Result? Underground temperatures in Beckley (and most places 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!

The function, then, of a geothermal heating and cooling system is to|Underground temperatures being what they are, then, it’s the job of a geothermal heating and cooling system to 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 remains at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family comfortable year-round.

The apparatus that effects the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some blend (predominantly antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (predominantly fashioned 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 returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid is brought into the loops, where it takes in the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need details? You’ll find more thorough information on ground loops here.

The principal 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 putting to use the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems are not only quieter but also considerably more reliable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, in the end, you’ll save appreciably more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Appalachian Heating, your Beckley geothermal heating and cooling authority, today.