The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Quite a few residents here in Charleston, South Carolina, have signed on with Custom Climate Heating & Air to transform their homes into geothermal homes. Still need convincing about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding a little of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve talked elsewhere about the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that almost no other means of maintaining a comfortable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, trustworthy, or economical, particularlly when you consider 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 no doubt just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t entail oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – that would be, oh, say, 33,000 feet under our feet – is a mantle of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten brew, principally of silicates, in which temperatures range 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. Result? Underground temperatures in Charleston (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!

The purpose, then, of a geothermal heating and cooling system is to|Underground temperatures being what they are, then, it’s the function of a geothermal heating and cooling system to transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, in keeping with the season. Either way, your home remains at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family comfortable month after month.

The apparatus that performs the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (typically antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (typically 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 absorbs the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Want details? You’ll find more comprehensive information on ground loops here.

The principal 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 harnessing the energy already abundantly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems not only run quieter but also are much more trustworthy, need less maintenance, have much longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, in the long run, you’ll save much more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Talk with Custom Climate Heating & Air, your Charleston geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.