Real Estate Blog - HomeGain

Geothermal heating and air conditioning powered by the earth

Posted by Marie Scheuring on March 22, 2009 at 06:29 am

I believe it is safe to say that we all understand the concept of using the sun to make electricity.  Anyone who has had a good sunburn realizes how much energy is available in full sunlight.  So, it is not a stretch for us to imagine converting that heat to electricity.  I recently learned a little about geothermal energy and I will admit; I never heard of it before.

Apparently, it has been around since the forties and it uses the earth to heat or cool your home.  The system is similar to a heat pump with the exception of using air to transfer energy.  Instead, long hoses are buried into the ground and water is circulated through them.  The earth has a  somewhat constant temperature below the surface which results in the temperature underground being warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than the above ground temperature. 

There are also dual systems that use both geothermal and air circulating heat pump technologies, sort of like a hybrid vehicle.  These geothermal systems are more efficient than the air circulating heat pumps we are all familiar with.  However, up front cost is higher.  By combining the two technologies, a high rate of efficiency is married with a much more affordable system. 

Systems have a life expectancy of about 25 years. The underground parts, called a ground loop, are expected to last about fifty years.  Payback in the way of free energy is around five to ten years.  Solar may be the obvious answer, but geothermal may be a more practical and affordable alternative.  Biggest surprise of all: according to the department of energy, 50,000 geothermal systems are installed each year in the US.

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