The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A good many homeowners here in Central New Jersey, NJ, have enlisted ABLEnvironmental to upgrade their homes to geothermal homes. Still need convincing about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding a smidgen of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – would likely help.

We’ve described elsewhere the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s quite sufficient to say here that almost no other means of maintaining apleasant home environment all year long are as efficient, trustworthy, or affordable, especially when you factor in the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that a reality.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We dig in the earth for precious metals. We dig in the earth for oil. Now, to an extraordinary degree, we’re tapping the earth for something no doubt just as valuable to a majority 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 roughly 33,000 feet under our feet – is a layer of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten mixture, for the most part made up 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. Result? Underground temperatures in Central New Jersey (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!

This, then, is what geothermal heating and cooling systems do: they transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, as the season dictates. Either way, your home remains at the optimum temperature to keep you and your family comfy year-round.

The mechanism that executes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (usually antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (usually made of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) placed in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it courses through the loops, it takes in heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid is brought into the loops, where it absorbs the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Looking for 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’re not 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 don’t only run quieter but also prove much more reliable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than standard HVACs. That’s also why, in the end, you’ll save much more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Talk with ABLEnvironmental, your Central New Jersey geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.