The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of homeowners here in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have sought Atlantic Well Drilling to turn their homes into geothermal homes. Still need convincing about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Comprehending a smidgen of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve talked elsewhere about the rewards of geothermal heating and cooling. Suffice it to say here that almost no other methods of maintaining an agreeable home environment year-round are as efficient, dependable, or affordable, particularlly when you size up the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal works that magic.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We tap the earth for precious metals. We tap the earth for oil. Now, more than ever, we’re tapping the earth for something no doubt just as valuable to many of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t involve oil.

You see, close 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, predominantly of silicates, in which temperatures run from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter the deeper you go (not that you’d want to go there!). What this does is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a relatively stable year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So? Underground temperatures in Cape Cod (and pretty much everywhere stateside, as it were) 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 is maintained at the optimum temperature to keep you and your family happy month after month.

The mechanism that handles the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some blend (usually antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (usually fashioned of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) buried in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it flows through the loops, it takes in heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid is brought into the loops, where it’s cooled by the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need details? You’ll find more specific information on ground loops here.

The principal 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 making use of the energy already richly available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems not only run quieter but also are considerably more trustworthy, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than standard HVACs. That’s also why, in the end, you’ll save a lot more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? See Atlantic Well Drilling, your Cape Cod geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.