The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Plenty of people here in Denver, Colorado, have sought Sensible Heating & Cooling to turn their homes into geothermal homes. Still unsure about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing a smidgen of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – may help.

We’ve described elsewhere the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that few other manner of maintaining a climatically comfortable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, dependable, or economical, especially when you take into account the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works its magic.

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 likely just as valuable to many of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t call for oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a mantle of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten brew, chiefly of silicates, in which temperatures range 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 relatively constant year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning? Underground temperatures in Denver (and most places stateside, in any event) 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, as the season dictates. Either way, your home environment remains at the optimum temperature to keep you and your family happy throughout the year.

The device that executes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (commonly antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (commonly 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 sucks up heat from the earth and is reintroduced to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid is brought into the loops, where it takes in the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Want details? You’ll find more thorough 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 making use of the energy already richly 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 significantly longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than standard HVACs. That’s also why, in the long run, you’ll save lots more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Consult with Sensible Heating & Cooling, your Denver geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.