Why Geothermal Heating and Cooling is More Energy Efficient than Traditional HVAC Systems


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When building or purchasing a home, how it will be heated and cooled is one of the most important decisions you'll make. Energy efficiency, overall costs and the effects on the environment are all important aspects to consider. There are several reasons why you should choose geothermal heating and cooling instead of a traditional HVAC system.

How Geothermal Works

The beauty of geothermal heating is that it uses the stored heat that is already under the ground. Some geographical areas experience extreme temperature changes throughout the year, resulting in freezing winters and hot summers. The temperature under the ground, however, remains at approximately 55 to 58 degrees F year-round. This is true whether you live in an area with stable air temperatures or an area that experiences extreme climate changes.

Through a system of underground piping this free energy can be tapped into and used to heat and cool your home. A geothermal pump uses underground pipes that are either filled with antifreeze or water. The liquid is able to pull heat from underground and eventually distributes it to your home. To cool your home this process is reversed. Heat is taken from your home and transferred underground. There are a variety of geothermal systems available. These include the following:

  • Horizontal - In a horizontal system pipes are buried at a minimum of four feet deep. This type of system is sometimes used in rural areas where there is a lot of space.
  • Vertical - Vertical pipes are usually used for homes that don't have a lot of yard space. Hole depth will be dependent upon the requirements specific to each individual home. Pipes are inserted into these holes and then connected and threaded into the heating unit.
  • Closed Loop - Closed loops use an antifreeze solution instead of water. Closed loop systems are most often used. Local code requirements, however, will determine the type of system for your home.
  • Open Loop - This type of system requires a large supply of ground water to use in place of antifreeze. The water is pumped up through the pipes so the heat can be extracted. The water is then sent back to the original source.

Why Geothermal is Critical to an Energy Efficient Home

HVAC systems use the outdoor air to heat or cool the inside of a home. When the outside air is extremely cold or warm this means the system has to work especially hard to keep the temperature inside the home at a comfortable level. A geothermal system uses air that remains fairly consistent year-round. This makes geothermal heating and cooling superior to a traditional HVAC system.

In order for a geothermal system to work as efficiently as possible it's necessary for the home to be built according to the highest standards. This would include making sure the home is well insulated and sealed effectively. Because a home needs to be sealed as securely as possible it's also necessary to have an advanced air filtration system. It's important to make sure the indoor air is healthy and clean.

An energy efficient home is also environmentally friendly. Geothermal energy is extremely safe for the environment. Geothermal Genius states that there are several reasons why geothermal heating is considered a sustainable and green source of energy.

  • Doesn't Use Fossil Fuels - A geothermal system doesn't need to burn fossil fuels, which can produce harmful gases such as methane and CO2.
  • Eliminates Outdoor Noise - A traditional condenser can create quite a bit of noise outside your home. There will also be more space for plants and trees in your yard.
  • Extremely Efficient - Because of how efficient geothermal energy can be, this also makes it environmentally friendly. Traditional systems burn fuel to produce warmth. Geothermal systems move heat from one source to another.

Geothermal vs. Traditional HVAC

It's important to compare geothermal and traditional HVAC side by side to clearly see the benefits of using geothermal. A furnace creates heat through a process of combustion. Geothermal heating relies on a much easier method of collecting and moving heat that is already there. When it's warm outside an HVAC system will take the warm air in your home and dump the heat into the environment. There are several specific reasons why geothermal is superior to an HVAC system.

  • Higher Efficiency - Geothermal energy moves heat that already exists. For each unit of electricity a geothermal system will use, it will produce several more units of cooling and heating energy.
  • No Cost Fluctuations - Since there is no fuel used there are basically no cost fluctuations involved. There are also minimal maintenance requirements which will keep costs stable.
  • Renewable Energy - Since the energy used ultimately comes from the sun heating the ground, this is an excellent source of renewable energy.
  • Long Term Savings - A geothermal system is initially more expensive to install than traditional HVAC, however, according to Energy.gov, a geothermal system will pay for itself in approximately 5 to 10 years. The inside components can be expected to last for up to 25 years while the ground loops may last for over 50 years.
  • Tax Credits - There are often tax credits as well as other incentives available when improving the energy efficiency of your home.

When building or buying the home of your dreams, it's important to make sure it's as energy efficient as possible. Using geothermal heating and cooling can cut energy costs up to 50 percent. High Performance Homes (HPH) provides high-quality custom home building that features innovative design, high energy efficiency and one-on-one attention. Contact HPH for more information.


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