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What Are Geothermal Heat Pumps?

Geothermal heat pumps are a cooling or heating system that uses the surrounding earth to maintain a comfortable home or office temperature. Some consumers will combine this technology with solar energy to provide a greater energy efficient temperature control system for the property. The investment to get started is rather low, making it an attractive option for property owners. There are certain considerations the consumer should keep in mind when deciding whether or not this is a technology that is right for their home or office environment.

The Earth’s surface is dynamic, ranging a great deal in temperature depending on the time of day and the season, but about 20-feet under the surface of the Earth the temperature is a stable 50 to 60 degrees. The technology was first described in 1853 by Lord Kelvin and developed in 1855 by Peter Ritter, and the first freezers used this type of technology to disperse heat and draw in the cold during the 1940s. The technology has been gaining in popularity since the 70s and has gained a worldwide audience with over a million users around the globe today.

There are different types of geothermal heat pumps. The ground exchanger is used during cold winter months to extract heat from the Earth’s crust, and during the warm summer months, it can dissipate the heat and bring in cooler temperatures. Generally, the technology only reaches between 3 to 8 feet underground to work proficiently, making it less expensive and readily available to more consumers.

The direct exchange system is the oldest type and is simple in design. A loop helps to circulate the refrigerant that is in direct contact with the static temperatures underground. The name “direct exchange” refers to a temperature control that only uses a single liquid for the transfer instead of going through another intermediate liquid, and there is no interaction between the earth and the liquid.

A closed loop system is popular when it comes to geothermal heat pumps. The system uses an aboveground loop and an underground loop to help maintain temperature control, and the natural climate will dictate the amount and type of piping needed to operate the complete system. There are generally relief valves and expansion tanks that are required, and this means the consumer should consider the amount of space necessary to operate the unit efficiently.

One of the attractions to geothermal heat pumps is its efficiency. The system will consume electricity, but it provides up to 5 times more energy than it consumes. Since the total output of energy is much more than the amount of energy it consumes, it is very efficient and well worth the investment for most property owners. In addition, the amount of pollution it outputs is minimal, so consumers are reducing greenhouse emissions and improving the environment.

Although it can be expensive to purchase a system, one can save money with geothermal. The cost to operate and maintain the system is very low, especially when compared to traditional HVAC units. The price of new geothermal heat pumps ranges depending on location. The average price within the United States was $14,000 while the same system in Canada costs $20,000. However, the system will pay for itself rather quickly depending on the type of energy it replaces.

Are geothermal heat pumps worth the investment? The answer will depend on the consumer and why they are considering the system. This type of unit works in conjunction with a HVAC unit, and helps free the consumer from costly utility bills. There are plenty of opportunities for someone interested in a system to get started thanks to financing options, rebates, and tax credits available within the United States.

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