The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

More than a few residents here in Knoxville, Tennessee, have sought Smith and Associates Geothermal to make their homes geothermal homes. Still need convincing about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding a bit of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve written elsewhere about the advantages of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s quite sufficient to say here that hardly any other means of maintaining a comfortable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, dependable, or economical, particularlly when you tally up 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, more than ever, we’re tapping the earth for an asset likely just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t necessitate oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – that would be about 33,000 feet under our feet – is a mantle of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten brew, for the most part comprised 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 reasonably stable year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So? Underground temperatures in Knoxville (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!

The purpose, then, of a geothermal heating and cooling system is to|Underground temperatures being what they are, then, it’s the task of a geothermal heating and cooling system to 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 year-round.

The mechanism that accomplishes the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some blend (predominantly antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (predominantly made 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 travels through the loops, it takes in 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 thorough 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 making use of the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems don’t only run quieter but also prove a lot more reliable, need less maintenance, have much 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 Smith and Associates Geothermal, your Knoxville geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.