by Lauren Feldis
Geothermal Home System—What is It?
Ten thousand years ago, the Paleo-Indians of North America used the naturally-heated water from underground hot springs for cooking, bathing, and cleaning. Two thousand years ago, the Romans tapped hot water from the earth to create steam to heat their buildings. If they could do it, so can we, right? Science tells us that heat is a form of energy, and the entire earth contains endless amounts of heat just below its surface. So, all we have to do is access and convert that heat into sustainable energy that we can use. Geothermal energy (geo, meaning “earth,” and thermo, meaning “heat”) from underground can be harnessed in three ways: (1) directly, (2) through geothermal heat pumps, or (3) for generating electrical power.
The Science Behind the System—How Does It Work?
1. Direct Access: Just like those from ancient times, we can utilize hot water and steam from hot springs, geysers, and underground geothermal reservoirs. This easy-access heat is often used to warm buildings, swimming pools, spas, greenhouses, and much more.
2. Geo-thermal heat pumps: About 20 feet below the earth’s surface, the ground maintains stable temperatures between 50 and 60°F. In a geothermal home system, a heat exchanger and pump circulate the warm water through a set of underground pipes that transfers heat into the air. During the winter, when the air is colder than underground, the heat exchanger pumps warm air up into the house and cold air down into the ground. During the summer, when the air is warmer than underground, the heat exchanger pumps cool air up into the house and hot air down into the ground. This system consistently keeps your home at a perfect temperature year-round!
3. Electrical power generation: Geothermal heat can also be used as a form of renewable energy by turning it into electricity. Geothermal power plants collect rising steam from underground reservoirs, or generate steam from hot water underneath the surface. The steam is funneled through a turbine, which pushes an electrical generator and converts the heat energy into electrical energy.
The Benefits of a Geothermal Home–Why Should We Care?
Energy Efficient: Geothermal heating/cooling systems are 300-600% more energy efficient than a non-eco-friendly heater and air-conditioner. Unlike a regular air-pump system, a geothermal system is much less affected by weather conditions because everything operates either inside or underground. This allows it to use less energy even during the coldest winters, emit less CO2 into the atmosphere, and last longer.
Quiet: Geothermal home systems are much quieter! You can cool down your house without the annoyingly loud air-conditioner keeping you up at night.
Affordable: Geothermal home systems are cheaper! Between heating, cooling, hot water, and electricity, you can cut your energy bills up to 65% compared to a regular heating/cooling system.