Use The Earth’s Temperature to Heat and Cool Your Home
 
By Pro Home Manager
Geothermal technology uses the earth’s temperature, a few feet below the surface, to heat and cool a home and to help provide hot water. Geothermal heat pump systems have been called "the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available today" by the EPA.

Homeowners can reduce their utility bills by 25% to 70% with a geothermal heat pump system. They will also experience lower maintenance, and higher levels of comfort, year-round. And perhaps best of all, they're being environmentally responsible. Since a geothermal system burns no fossil fuel to produce heat, it generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional furnace, and completely eliminates a potential source of poisonous carbon monoxide within the home. The only external power required is the electricity to run the system.

This technology is not new. Ancient Romans used geothermal energy to heat the water for their baths. More recently, the materials and techniques used have improved and increased efficiency. It works by transferring the earth’s fairly constant temperature below the surface to the interior of the home.

In winter, water or a water solution circulating through pipes buried in the ground absorbs heat from the earth and carries it into the home. The geothermal system inside the home uses a heat pump to concentrate the earth's thermal energy and then to transfer it to air circulated through standard ductwork to fill the interior space with warmth.

In the summer, the process is reversed: heat is extracted from the air in the house and transferred through the heat pump to the ground loop piping. The water solution in the ground loop then carries the excess heat back to the earth. The waste heat removed from the home's interior during the cooling season can be used to provide virtually free hot water-resulting in a total savings in hot water costs of about 30% annually, and lowering emissions even further.

Geothermal systems may cost a bit more to install than conventional systems because of the ground loop piping. However, these systems typically have the lowest life-cycle cost of any heating and cooling system. Heating and cooling costs for a typical 2,000-sq.-ft. home can run as low as $1 a day.

Moreover, installation costs have declined substantially in recent years, and they're expected to continue to fall, as more builders and contractors offer geothermal systems, and as the industry develops innovative ways to install the systems faster and more efficiently. Geothermal systems may also provide substantial savings on repair, maintenance and hot water bills. The aggregate savings will eventually offset their higher installation cost, although the length of time required to realize the savings depends on the size and location of the house. Finally, the energy efficiency of the system should also add value to the home.

11/26/2008

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