Geothermal energy can be tapped to realize significant savings in the heating and cooling of a home. While many parts of the country experience seasonal temperature extremes—from scorching heat in the summer to sub-zero cold in the winter—a few feet below the earth's surface the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature. Depending on latitude, ground temperatures range from 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C). Like a cave, this ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air in the summer.

Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) use the constant temperature of the earth to provide cooling and heating for a home. There are different types of geothermal heat pumps, but the principle on which they operate is similar. A loop of piping is buried in the ground and fluid circulates through the loop. In the summer, the fluid uses the cooler temperature of the ground to provide indoor cooling. During colder months, the geothermal heat pump uses the below-ground temperature, which is significantly warmer than the outside air, to warm the home.

Unlike traditional furnaces and central air conditioning systems, geothermal heat pumps do not use energy to generate hot or cool air. GHP systems use energy only to move cooler or warmer air, depending on the season, into and out of the home. As a result, GHPs are a very energy-efficient method for heating and cooling.

Even though the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of conventional heating and cooling systems of equal capacity, the additional costs are returned in energy savings in 5 to 10 years. System life is estimated at 25 years for the inside components and 50+ years for the ground loop.









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