The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of homeowners here in Topeka, Kansas, have hired Ground Source, Inc. to make their homes geothermal homes. Still hesitant about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Comprehending a bit of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve described elsewhere the merits of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s quite sufficient to say here that hardly any other methods of maintaining a comfortable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, reliable, or economical, 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 something probably just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t necessitate oil.

You see, right beneath 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, predominantly 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 does is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The upshot? Underground temperatures in Topeka (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!

What geothermal heating and cooling systems do, then, is transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, depending on the season. Either way, your home environment is maintained at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family in comfort month after month.

The device that handles the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (predominantly antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (predominantly made of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) buried in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it courses through the loops, it absorbs 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 comprehensive information on ground loops here.

The central point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They don’t work like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by employing the energy already abundantly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems are not only quieter but also much more trustworthy, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, ultimately, you’ll save lots more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Consult with Ground Source, Inc., your Topeka geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.