Geothermal Basics

diagram of geothermal heat pump

In this day and age when most people are concerned about the world’s limited resources and the impact of energy usage on the environment, it’s encouraging to know new sustainable solutions are being developed, and old ones improved upon. Utilizing modern technology married to age-old methods to heat and cool a building can lead to significant energy, as well as financial, savings. Geothermal heating is one of those technologies that holds the potential to significantly change the way you heat your Roane County home.

What Is Geothermal Heating?

Geothermal heating has been used to keep people warm for centuries. It is the process of using the Earth’s natural heat, just under the surface, to warm your home’s air and water. It can also be used to cool your home in the summer. Geothermal heating systems, like the ones used today, have been around for more than five decades. A geothermal heat pump essentially moves heat from your home into the ground in the summer, or from the ground into your home in the winter.

How Does Geothermal Heating Work?

Most geothermal heating systems employ heat exchangers to move fluid within a closed-loop system in the ground. Heavy-duty plastic pipes sit either horizontally (about six feet underground) or vertically (as deep as 600 feet). More common, in East Tennessee, are loop systems submerged deep in a nearby lake or pond, where the water temperature stays constant. They can sometimes be open-looped geothermal heating systems, which moves the water from the source into an indoor heat pump for temperature control. Rejected water is then piped back into the water source, or nearby to reenter the aquifer.

In a closed-loop system, special fluid produced from water and environmentally friendly antifreeze circulates through the heat exchange pipes to absorb and dispel heat, either to or from the ground. When it reaches the heat pump, the heat is moved either into or out of your home depending on the season. The treated air is then circulated through your Tennessee home’s duct system.

Can I Modify My Current System?

An existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can be modified to add a geothermal heat pump. Our Central City Heating & Air Conditioning professionals can simply replace a furnace or air conditioning unit and attach a heat pump.

A local contractor will need to be hired to excavate, lay and then bury the underground pipes for heat exchange. Before digging, you may want to consider the pros and cons of vertical and horizontal piping. 

Vertical pipe loops disturb less of your current landscape, but are more expensive to install due to the depths required. They are usually excavated by a well-drilling company. In East TN, the large amount of rocks in our soil make this option less tenable.  Horizontal pipe loops are only buried about six feet deep, and are therefore less expensive. However, they require a larger footprint of land. The least expensive way to attain geothermal heating is to install a closed pond loop, if you happen to live near a body of water.

What Are the Costs and Return on Investment?

Geothermal heating systems can be significantly more expensive than a conventional HVAC system. Installation is much more complex and time-consuming. 

However, geothermal systems are built to last for decades. A geothermal heat pump will typically have a life span of 25 years, while underground piping loops are designed to last for more than 50 years. In addition, the US Department of Energy (DOE) reports that geothermal heating systems can reduce your energy bills by up to 65 percent.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, a homeowner can generally expect to recoup initial costs within a single decade.

Are There Other Benefits?

Geothermal heating systems are durable, are long lasting, and help you save energy. They use a renewable, existing resource of the heat of the earth. They are both environmentally friendly and sustainable. Additionally, geothermal heating systems require very little maintenance. They produce the fewest emissions, reduce water and air pollution, and use the least amount of electricity.

Geothermal heating systems provide safe, stable, comfortable heat, generate less noise than a conventional system, and produce efficient humidity control for your home.

Contact Central City Heating & Air Conditioning for More Geothermal Information

For more information about geothermal heating systems, contact Central City Heating & Air Conditioning in Kingston, TN. Our professionals can share the details of this sustainable, renewable source of energy as well as answer your questions. Call us at 865-717-9191 or request service online today.

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