The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

More than a few homeowners here in Tennessee Valley, Alabama, have signed on with Southern Solar Systems to upgrade their homes to geothermal homes. Still wary of geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve noted elsewhere the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that almost no other methods of maintaining apleasant home environment all year long are as efficient, reliable, or economical, especially when you tally up the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works that 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 an asset likely just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t entail oil.

You see, just below the earth’s crust – that would be roughly 33,000 feet under our feet – is a stratum of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten blend, primarily of silicates, in which temperatures run 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 year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Result? Underground temperatures in Tennessee Valley (and pretty much everywhere stateside, as it were) 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, depending on the season. Either way, your home’s interior is maintained at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family comfortable year-round.

The apparatus that accomplishes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (usually antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (usually fashioned of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) installed in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it travels through the loops, it assimilates heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid enters the loops, where it assimilates the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need details? You’ll find more specific information on ground loops here.

The principal 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 using the energy already abundantly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems don’t only run quieter but also prove a lot more dependable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than standard HVACs. That’s also why, ultimately, you’ll save lots more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Consult with Southern Solar Systems, your Tennessee Valley geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.