The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A good many homeowners here in Columbus, Ohio, have hired Patriot Air Comfort Systems to make their homes geothermal homes. Still need persuading about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Understanding some of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – might help.

We’ve talked elsewhere about the virtues of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s enough to say here that almost no other methods of maintaining an agreeable home environment year-round are as efficient, reliable, or economical, especially when you consider the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that possible.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We mine the earth for precious metals. We drill the earth for oil. Now, more than ever, we’re tapping the earth for an asset no doubt just as valuable to a majority of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t entail oil.

You see, close beneath the earth’s crust – no more than 33,000 feet under our feet – is a layer of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten mixture, 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 does 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 Columbus (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, depending on the season. Either way, your home is maintained at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family in comfort in every season.

The mechanism that effects the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some blend (typically antifreeze) between your home and loops of pipe (typically made 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 travels through the loops, it assimilates heat from the earth and is returned to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid enters the loops, where it assimilates the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Want details? You’ll find more comprehensive information on ground loops here.

The key point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They’re not 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 much more trustworthy, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than conventional HVACs. That’s also why, in the end, you’ll save lots more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Consult with Patriot Air Comfort Systems, your Columbus geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.