Posted on March 25, 2015
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about upgrading your heating system to something a bit more energy efficient. Instead of buying another conventional HVAC system with a slightly better efficiency rating, you may want to take a look at the benefits a geothermal heating system has to offer. The following explains how a geothermal system offers an excellent combination of cost-effectiveness, efficiency and overall performance.
How Geothermal Heating Systems WorkAs the name implies, geothermal heating systems take advantage of the earth below to provide effective heating throughout the winter months. Underground temperatures tend to remain constant, thanks in large part to the large amounts of solar energy the earth absorbs. A typical system pulls the latent heat from this underground store and transfers it to your home. Most geothermal heating systems use water traveling within an underground piping loop to gather the ground’s heat. This heat is concentrated within the system’s ground source heat pump so it can be used to heat your home. During the summer, the whole process can be reversed to take advantage of cooler underground temperatures as the mercury climbs.
What Makes Geothermal Heating So Attractive?Like ordinary heat pumps, geothermal heating systems offer a great deal of flexibility when it comes to heating and cooling, but with even greater energy efficiency. For example, geothermal heat pumps can be used not just to heat your home, but to provide hot water as well. This feature cuts out additional costs that would have been spent on electric or gas hot water heating. Geothermal systems are much more reliable than their counterparts, thanks to a reduced number of components involved. These systems tend to be simplistic in their design and built with a tremendous level of durability and reliability. It’s not uncommon to see geothermal systems last for decades on end, and most units have warranties that last for 50 years or more. These heating systems also offer greater security and peace of mind than other systems. There’s no outdoor cabinet to defend against vandals or outdoor creatures, plus the geothermal loop is safely tucked away underground. Most of the essential components are located indoors, with ease-of-accessibility first and foremost on manufacturers’ minds. Last but not least, geothermal heating systems are valued for their relatively quiet operation. The noise of a typical heat pump with an outdoor condenser/compressor unit can be off-putting to those who find such noises distracting. Since a geothermal system doesn’t need an outdoor unit, a two-speed unit offers far quieter operation than its refrigerant-dependent counterpart.
Getting StartedOnce you’ve decided on geothermal heating as a way to keep your Lufkin home warm, it’s time to get started with the selection and installation process. But before you can do that, you’ll want to make sure the land surrounding your home is suitable for a geothermal heating system installation. There are three considerations to make when it comes to installing your new geothermal heating system: geology, hydrology and land availability.
Learning the Lay of Your LandYour first consideration involves the geology of the land. A geothermal heating system’s ability to transfer heat is easily affected by the composition of the soil and rock underneath. If the soil has poor heat transfer properties, the geothermal system requires more piping and energy to properly deliver heat to your home. If the soil is too rocky or too shallow to create a useful installation trench, you may have to consider alternative installation options. Hydrology is also an important factor when designing and installing a geothermal system. The wetness of the surrounding soil will have a definite impact on your new system’s overall efficiency. Geothermal heating systems submerged in water or set in wet soil tend to transfer heat more efficiently than ground loops buried in drier areas. If your home is near a body of surface water or an extensive source of ground water, you may be able to benefit from an open-loop system that uses ground water as a transfer medium. A closed-loop system can also be set within a body of water or wet soil to increase its overall efficiency. If deemed feasible, installations set in dry soil may also be accompanied by "soaker hoses" that inject water into the surrounding ground to keep the ground loop wet. The last, but most important consideration is the amount of land you have available for installing a geothermal heating system. This is the one factor that can have a tremendous impact on your choice of system. Depending on how much land is available, your options include:
- Horizontal ground loops – The most economical choice for geothermal heating systems and commonly installed in conjunction with newly constructed buildings. This option normally requires more land than the others.
- Vertical installation – Ideal for instances where space is at a premium or when a horizontal ground loop poses the most threat to an existing building structure or underground utility.
- Compact horizontal installation – Uses less space than most horizontal or vertical installations. These coils only require a shallow trench for installation, resulting in less disturbed space and quicker installation.