Geothermal: How Does it Work?

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If you’re a homeowner interested in saving money and using energy more intelligently in your home, exploring geothermal should be your first stop. You might be wondering, what exactly is geothermal, and how do geothermal heat pumps work?

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Just below the frost line underground, the soil remains a fairly constant temperature of around 50°F. Home geothermal systems use this steady ground temperature to more efficiently heat and cool homes.

Home geothermal systems are made up of two basic parts–a geothermal heat pump that sits inside the home, and underground pipes called “ground loops” installed below the frost line outside.

Heat pumps use a small amount of electricity to transfer heat from one place to another. If you’ve ever used a freezer, you’ve essentially seen a heat pump in action. Freezers pump warm air out of the freezer compartment, where it comes in contact with a closed loop of freezing cold coils and returns as refrigerated air.

Geothermal heat pumps work in a very similar manner. An eco-friendly antifreeze solution is pumped through a closed set of pipes underground, along the way, picking up the ambient temperature of the ground. If this solution enters the ground hot, it steadily cools itself down to 50°F before returning to the house. If it enters the ground cold, it’ll steadily warm itself up to 50°F before returning.

Once this antifreeze solution enters the home, it’s piped into an appliance that’s about the size of a washing machine that contains a second, smaller closed system.

During the winter, the geothermal heat pump uses the ambient temperature of the ground and some electricity to create super hot coils. Air runs across those coils and gets pumped through a home’s ductwork as central heat. This provides heating with minimal electricity use. In the summer, the process gets reversed. Hot air gets pumped into the system and is dispersed into the stable and relatively cooler earth. This provides air conditioning with minimal electricity use.  The result is an environmentally friendly way to run your heating and cooling system year-round, at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact of electric, oil or propane heating systems.

Here at Dandelion, we’ve focused our early work on improving the drilling process, turning a job that used to take several days and would sometimes require digging huge holes in someone’s backyard into a process that takes a few hours and creates a hole just 4 inches in diameter.

Our goal is to make home geothermal energy a cleaner and cheaper alternative to conventional heating and air conditioning systems. Coupling a Dandelion system with solar panels can dramatically reduce a home’s monthly energy costs and carbon footprint.

If you’re curious about how much you might save, we’ve developed a calculator to estimate your monthly savings with unparalleled accuracy. Click here to check if we’re available in your area, and speak to one of our experts about how easy and affordable it is to switch to home geothermal energy.