The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A good many homeowners here in Idaho Falls, Idaho, have signed on with Conan Heating and Geothermal to transform their homes into geothermal homes. Still unsure about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – would undoubtedly help.

We’ve talked elsewhere about the merits of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that almost no other methods of maintaining an agreeable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, dependable, or ultimately thrifty, especially when you factor in the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that a reality.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We dig in the earth for precious metals. We dig in the earth for oil. Now, as never before, we’re tapping the earth for something no doubt just as valuable to a majority of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t entail oil.

You see, just beneath the earth’s crust – we’re talking no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a layer of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten mixture, for the most part made up of silicates, in which temperatures vary 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. So? Underground temperatures in Idaho Falls (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 remains at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family comfortable month after month.

The apparatus that handles the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some solution (usually antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (usually fashioned of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) placed in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it courses through the loops, it absorbs heat from the earth and is reintroduced to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid enters the loops, where it’s cooled by the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Looking for details? You’ll find more comprehensive information on ground loops here.

The key point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They aren’t like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by putting to use the energy already amply available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems not only run quieter but also are much 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 Conan Heating and Geothermal, your Idaho Falls geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.