The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of homeowners here in Pensacola, Florida, have sought Energy Systems to upgrade their homes to geothermal homes. Still need persuading about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding a bit of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – may help.

We’ve written elsewhere about the perks of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that few other means of maintaining an agreeable home environment year-round are as efficient, trustworthy, or affordable, especially when you gauge the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that possible.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We tap the earth for precious metals. We tap the earth for oil. Now, more than ever, we’re tapping the earth for something undoubtedly just as valuable to many of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t call for oil.

You see, just under the earth’s crust – that would be, oh, say, 33,000 feet under our feet – is a stratum of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten blend, for the most part comprised 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 does is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The upshot? Underground temperatures in Pensacola (and most places stateside, anyway) 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, in keeping with the season. Either way, your home’s interior remains at the ideal temperature to keep you and your family happy throughout the year.

The device 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 made 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 flows through the loops, it sucks up heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid is brought into the loops, where it assimilates the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Looking for details? You’ll find more thorough information on ground loops here.

The central 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 are not only quieter but also much more trustworthy, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, ultimately, you’ll save lots more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Talk with Energy Systems, your Pensacola geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.