The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Quite a few people here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have sought Gochnauer at Home to upgrade their homes to geothermal homes. Still hesitant about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve noted elsewhere the merits of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that almost no other manner of maintaining a comfortable home environment year-round are as efficient, dependable, or economical, especially when you consider the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works its magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We tap the earth for precious metals. We tap the earth for oil. Now, to a heretofore unparalleled degree, we’re tapping the earth for something undoubtedly just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t involve oil.

You see, right under the earth’s crust – that would be in the neighborhood of 33,000 feet under our feet – is a stratum of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten blend, for the most part comprised of silicates, in which temperatures run 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 reasonably consistent year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning? Underground temperatures in Lancaster (and most places stateside, anyway) 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, in accordance with the season. Either way, your home’s interior remains at the best possible temperature to keep you and your family comfy all year long.

The apparatus that handles 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) buried in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it travels through the loops, it sucks up heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid enters the loops, where it assimilates 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 aren’t like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by putting to use the energy already amply available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems not only run quieter but also are a lot more reliable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, ultimately, you’ll save appreciably more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Gochnauer at Home, your Lancaster geothermal heating and cooling authority, today.