Geo Info

Geothermal Energy Solutions


Remember, a geothermal heat pump doesn’t create heat by burning fuel, like a furnace does. Instead, in winter it collects the Earth’s natural heat through a series of pipes, called a loop, installed below the surface of the ground or submersed in a pond or lake. Fluid circulates through the loop and carries the heat to the house. There, an electrically driven compressor and a heat exchanger concentrate the Earth’s energy and release it inside the home at a higher temperature. Ductwork distributes the heat to different rooms.

In summer, the process is reversed. The underground loop draws excess heat from the house and allows it to be absorbed by the Earth. The system cools your home in the same way that a refrigerator keeps your food cool – by drawing heat from the interior, not by blowing in cold air.

The geothermal loop that is buried underground is typically made of high-density polyethylene, a tough plastic that is extraordinarily durable but which allows heat to pass through efficiently. When installers connect sections of pipe, they heat fuse the joints, making the connections stronger than the pipe itself. The fluid in the loop is water or an environmentally safe antifreeze solution that circulates through the pipes in a closed system.

Heat pumps move heat from one place to another – from outside to inside a home, for example. That’s why they’re called “heat pumps.”

Here’s a simplified version of how a heat pump works:

All heat pumps have an outdoor unit (called a condenser) and an indoor unit (an evaporator coil). A substance called arefrigerant carries the heat from one area to another. When compressed, it is a high temperature, high-pressure liquid. If it is allowed to expand, it turns into a low temperature, low pressure gas. The gas then absorbs heat. In the winter the normal heat pump system extracts heat from outdoor air and transfers it inside where it is circulated through your home’s ductwork by a fan.

Even cold air contains a great deal of heat; the temperature at which air no longer carries any heat is well below -200 degrees Fahrenheit. But the coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states was -70 degrees, recorded at Roger Pass, Montana on January 20, 1954. Obviously in such weather, a heat pump would have to work pretty hard to produce 68-degree temperatures inside your home.

That’s why geothermal heat pumps are so efficient.

Geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but instead of using heat found in outside air, they rely on the stable, even heat of the earth to provide heating, air conditioning and, in most cases, hot water.

From Montana’s minus 70 degree temperature, to the highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. – 134 degrees in Death Valley, California, in 1913 – many parts of the country experience seasonal temperature extremes. A few feet below the earth’s surface, however, the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature. Although the temperatures vary according to latitude, at six feet underground, temperatures range from 45 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ever been inside a cave in the summer? The air underground is a constant, cooler temperature than the air outside. During the winter, that same constant cave temperature is warmer than the air outside.

That’s the principle behind geothermal heat pumps. In the winter, they move the heat from the earth into your house. In the summer, they pull the heat from your home and discharge it into the ground.

Studies show that approximately 70 percent of the energy used in a geothermal heat pump system is renewable energy from the ground. The earth’s constant temperature is what makes geothermal heat pumps one of the most efficient, comfortable, and quiet heating and cooling technologies available today. While they may be more costly to install initially than regular heat pumps, they can produce markedly lower energy bills – 30 percent to 40 percent lower, according to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who now includes geothermal heat pumps in the types of products rated in the EnergyStar® program. Because they are mechanically simple and outside parts of the system are below ground and protected from the weather, maintenance costs are often lower as well.

As an added benefit, systems can be equipped with a device called a “desuperheater” can heat household water, which circulates into the regular water heater tank. In the summer, heat that is taken from the house and would be expelled into the loop is used to heat the water for free. In the winter, the desuperheater can reduce water-heating costs by about half, while a conventional water heater meets the rest of the household’s needs. In the spring and fall when temperatures are mild and the heat pump may not be operating at all, the regular water heater provides hot water.

Geothermal heat pumps are durable and require little maintenance. They have fewer mechanical components than other systems, and most of those components are underground, sheltered from the weather. The equipment does not have to operate in any inclement weather conditions, therefore the life cycle is much longer than any other heating and cooling equipment. The underground piping used in the system is often guaranteed to last 25 to 50 years and is virtually worry-free. As the only Waterfurnace Geothermal services contractor in the Philadelphia region we have the ability to offer a 55 year “NO LEAK” warranty on all earth loops. The components inside the house are small and easily accessible for maintenance. Warm and cool air are distributed through ductwork, just as in a regular forced-air system.

Since geothermal systems have no outside condensing units like all traditional air conditioners and heat pumps, they are much quieter to operate.

When you invest in a WaterFurnace geothermal system, you can be assured that you are receiving the highest quality, best performing heating and cooling system available. Here are some of the benefits of geothermal ownership:

  • Lower operating costs: The WaterFurnace system operates more efficiently than ordinary heating and air conditioning systems-30% to 60% in most cases.
  • Comfortable: Because the unit uses the relatively stable temperature of the earth as an energy source, you are assured of constant, even winter heating and better humidity control in summer.
  • Safe and clean: No flame, no flue, no odors, just safe reliable operation year after year.
  • Flexibility: The unit provides heating, central air conditioning and hot water all from the same compact unit.
  • Economical Water Heating: Water heating can be a significant energy expense. WaterFurnace units can reduce the high cost of water heating by as much as 66%.
  • Attractive: The completely self contained indoor unit needs no noisy, unsightly outside condensing unit
  • Environment: The system emits no carbon dioxide, which is considered a major contributor to environmental air pollution.
  • WorryFree® warranties: In the unlikely event of a service problem, WaterFurnace systems are covered by the best warranty in the industry.