What is a geothermal heat pump?
A geothermal or “ground-source” heat pump is an electrically powered device that uses the natural heat storage ability of the earth and/or the earth’s groundwater to heat and cool your home or business.
How does it work?
Like any type of heat pump, it simply moves heat energy from one place to another. The geothermal heat pump removes heat energy stored in the earth and/or the earth’s groundwater and transfers it to the home.
How is heat transferred between the earth and the home?
The earth has the ability to absorb and store heat energy. To use that stored energy, heat is extracted from the earth through a liquid medium (water) and is pumped to the heat pump heat exchanger. There, the heat is used to heat your home. In summer the process is reversed and indoor heat is extracted from your home and transferred to the earth through the liquid.
You mentioned heating and cooling. Does it do both?
One of the things that makes a heat pump so versatile is its ability to be a heating and cooling system in one. You can change from one mode to another with a simple flip of a switch on your indoor thermostat. Plus, a geothermal heat pump can assist in heating water year-round.
Do I need separate ground loops for heating and cooling?
No. The same loop works for both. All that happens when changing from heating to cooling, or vice versa, is that the flow of heat is reversed inside the unit.
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What types of loops are available?
There are two main types: open and closed. There are several configurations of closed loop available though: horizontal, vertical and pond. Your loop configuration will match the advantages and restrictions of your location.
Does the underground pipe system really work?
The buried pipe, or “ground loop,” is the biggest technical advancement in heat pump technology to date. The idea to bury pipe in the ground to gather heat energy began in the 1940s. But it’s only been in the last 25 years that new heat pump designs and improved pipe materials have been combined to make geothermal heat pumps the most efficient heating and cooling systems available.
What liquid do you use in a closed-loop system?
The liquid is a mixture of water and either methyl alcohol or propylene glycol (like your car radiator). This keeps it from freezing or boiling, and improves the heat transfer efficiency.