The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of homeowners here in Northern Colorado, Colorado, have recruited Comfort By Nature to make their homes geothermal homes. Still leery of geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Comprehending some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – would probably help.

We’ve described elsewhere the virtues of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that few other methods of maintaining a comfortable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, trustworthy, or economical, especially when you gauge the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works that magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We tap the earth for precious metals. We tap the earth for oil. Now, as never before, we’re tapping the earth for an asset undoubtedly just as valuable to many of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t necessitate oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a layer of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten mixture, chiefly 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 serves to do is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a reasonably constant year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So? Underground temperatures in Northern Colorado (and pretty much everywhere 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, as the season dictates. Either way, your home stays at the ideal temperature to keep you and your family happy month after month.

The appiance that executes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (usually antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (usually fabricated 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 takes in heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid goes into the loops, where it absorbs the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need 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 aren’t like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by making use of the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems don’t only run quieter but also prove considerably more reliable, need less maintenance, have significantly longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, in the end, you’ll save appreciably more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Comfort By Nature, your Northern Colorado geothermal heating and cooling authority, today.