The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of homeowners here in Lafayette, Indiana, have signed on with Korschot's Heating and Air to transform their homes into geothermal homes. Still need persuading about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding something of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – would likely help.

We’ve written elsewhere about the perks of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s enough to say here that few other methods of maintaining an agreeable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, reliable, or ultimately thrifty, particularlly when you take into account the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works that magic.

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 a resource likely just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t necessitate oil.

You see, just below the earth’s crust – that would be in the neighborhood of 33,000 feet under our feet – is a stratum of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten blend, predominantly 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 year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The upshot? Underground temperatures in Lafayette (and pretty much everywhere 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 is maintained at the perfect temperature to keep you and your family happy month after month.

The appiance that effects the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (predominantly antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (predominantly fabricated 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 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 enters the loops, where it’s cooled by the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Want details? You’ll find more specific information on ground loops here.

The primary point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They don’t work 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 not only run quieter but also are considerably more dependable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than traditional HVACs. That’s also why, over the long haul, you’ll save appreciably more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Consult with Korschot's Heating and Air, your Lafayette geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.